When It’s Our Turn to Take Care of Them The unique challenges of caring for our community’s seniors
By: Kelly Jemal Massry
You may know of Mozelle Goldstein because of the CPR classes she teaches. Perhaps you’ve seen her urging women to come to her workouts at the Woodmere Fitness Club. Maybe you are a fan of hermazza business, SY in LI. What Mozelle takes the most pride in, though, is her work as a pediatric oncology nurse. Admirably, she performs all of these activities – mothering her children, nursing cancer patients, teaching CPR to
large audiences, leading exercise classes, and selling her mazza –
with intensity. She never becomes subsumed by the variety of her responsibilities. She simply enjoys keeping busy and living her life fully. With the correct focus, she teaches us, a woman can accomplish any number of goals.
Mozelle fell in love with science in high school. She knew with certainty that she wanted to have a career in the medical field, but it was only in college that she discovered it. As a biology major, she worked in the emergency room of Montefiore Hospital. “I saw that nurses really ran the show and decided that’s what I wanted to do,” she says. “I personally like to be hands-on,
face-to-face and I knew nursing would give me that.” Being in the hospital by the bedside of a patient brings Mozelle immense satisfaction. Rather than harden herself to what she sees, Mozelle nurses with a blend of compassion and expertise.
When Mozelle was a student at Stern College for Women, she volunteered in the playroom of Sloan Kettering Hospital and formed an allegiance to the cancer patients there. The experience helped to make up her mind – she’d work in oncology and ease the pain of these young children. But then, while still in nursing school, Mozelle had her first child and began experiencing all the new feelings attached to motherhood. Suddenly, she couldn’t abide watching children suffer. She turned her attention away from oncology and grew enamored with the NICU – the neonatal intensive care unit. Mozelle cherished administering to these small babies and did so for over two years. However, being a NICU nurse involved long shifts in the hospital and she needed more outpatient hours for the sake of her family. And so, she was drawn back into the field of oncology once again.
Mozelle graduated from NYU nursing school, completing a 15-month program that exposed her to the many aspects of medicine. “Every semester was a different clinical,” she says. “You’d be taking a class in that subject and also working on that floor in the hospital, getting hands-on experience.” All of this prepared her for a nursing career that complimented her capable and efficient personality. Though she had to balance her studies with being a wife and mother, it was never truly a source of struggle for her. She remained driven, while enjoying the complete support of her family. “I think it has everything to do with the fact that he’s Ashkenaz,” she says candidly of her husband, Ben. “He didn’t question a career, he didn’t question a working mother. It was what he grew up with. Of course I was going to have a career.”
Directly after nursing school, Mozelle began working in the NICU of Maimonides Hospital. A little over two years later, she transferred to the Maimonides Cancer Center, working in pediatric oncology and hematology. She took a year off and worked as a nurse in Yeshivah of Flatbush High School, before becoming employed at Cornell Hospital’s pediatric oncology unit. When, exactly one year ago, she moved to Woodmere, Long Island with her family, she began working at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center (LIJ North Shore Hospital) in the same capacity. Though patients sometimes look at her and protest, thinking her too young to care for them, her nine years of experience more than makes up for her baby face. Her fellow colleagues look to her with respect; at times, she is the most skilled person in the room.
Mozelle vividly brings us into the world of nursing. She describes days filled with continuous responsibilities, all of it revolving around a patient’s wellbeing. “People don’t know what nurses do until they themselves become a patient,” she says. “The nurses are the ones at the bedside checking the patient’s status. We’re the ones watching every single second, administering the meds, putting the IVs in. The doctors give the orders, but we follow through with them.” She details her specific work even more thoroughly. “As a pediatric oncology nurse, you can’t be even a little bit sick. You have to be extra clean, constantly wearing gloves. And you have to have sensitivity towards what the kids and their parents are going through.” Even so, Mozelle’s empathy never clouds her judgment or her work ethic. “I don’t overly sympathize,” she says. “I try to be real with them and be honest. If I have to administer IV and a child asks me if it’s going to hurt,
I tell him yes, it will, but I’ll try to be as gentle as possible.”
Mozelle is constantly asked how she does it – work in a job in which she’s often grieving the untimely deaths of children she has grown to love. Her answer? “Because I can. Someone’s gotta do it. It’s hard, it’s emotional, but I have
the skill set and I can do it.” Of course, she is not completely immune to the challenges of the job. Once, she broke down and considered leaving the field altogether. “While I was pregnant, I left for a time,” she says. “I lost a little girl that I could have brought home with me. She was five. It was very hard on me and I thought I was done – but after a year away, I realized how important this is. I can honestly wake up and say, ‘I’m going to save lives today.’ The work I’m doing matters.”
Mozelle feels just as passionately about her work as CPR instructor. It, too, saves lives on a daily basis. She gets texts weekly from students of hers, who knew what to do in life-threatening situations because of taking CPR classes with her. “I saved my baby’s life yesterday,” one might read. “He has bad reflux and choked on his spit up and wasn’t breathing for a full minute. I’m so glad I took classes with you and was able to be proactive.” Mozelle was first trained in CPR as a nursing student. Her desire to teach it grew organically – she wanted to share the knowledge she’d gained.
“A big part of nursing is education,” she says. “I love teaching and empowering people.”
To become an instructor, Mozelle took a two-day long course in the subject. Her professional studies have not ended there; she has to recertify herself as a teacher every two years, keeping up to date with the changes in protocol. She gives an example. “With CPR now, the focus is on compressions – compressions only, no mouth-to-mouth. The American Heart Association pushes hands-only CPR because they want people to help – and if you don’t have to get your mouth involved you’re a lot more likely to help.” Mozelle’s classes last two hours and cover adult, child, and infant CPR. They also go into automatic external defibrillator use, choking and drowning.
Mozelle’s name has come to be synonymous with CPR and she loves that – if only because it widens her outreach. The more people who know about what she does, the more people she can help. “It can happen to anybody,” she declares, “and people need to know what to do; they need to be prepared.” She doesn’t mind saying this either: They need to be scared. Statistically, at least one child dies from choking on food every five days; choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of five. Also, 88% of cardiac arrests occur at home, so the life you save is likely to be that of someone you love.
Thankfully, Mozelle has never had to save the lives of her own children and has only performed CPR in the NICU – but the
near-death experiences of others stay with her. “One of my students did CPR with compressions to a stranger she saw collapse on Avenue Z,” Mozelle recalls. “She stopped her car, did CPR and got him to open his eyes. It was one of my proudest moments as a teacher.” Mozelle urges everyone to take her class at least once – not for her sake but for the sake of others.
“It’s not for everyone,” Mozelle says of her hectic lifestyle, “but I wouldn’t change it. It’s a personality thing. I don’t know how to relax, how to sit still. I believe you need to keep yourself educated, keep yourself busy. My husband has told me many times, “What kind of role model do you want to be for your daughter? And the answer is the kind
of role model who is a working woman – who has a family but
also does something else that is very meaningful.”
To sign up for one of Mozelle’s CPR classes, email her at Mozellegoldstein@gmail.com.