Podcast: Haverhill Schools’ McArthur and Sister Share Luminary Award for COVID-19 Horror

Karen Nascembeni and her sister Sandra McArthur. (Courtesy photograph.)

Haverhill Public Schools Human Resources Director Sandra McArthur has been busy helping to fill the many job openings at Haverhill schools, but many don’t know about an emotional and trying path she and her sister followed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

McArthur and her sister, Karen Nascembeni, general manager of the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, were recently honored with the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce Peter Frates Family Luminary Award. The recognition came during a Sept.23, event celebrating inspiring stories and heroes of 2020. McArthur recounted the onslaught of COVID-19 sent her sister Karen, and Karen’s husband, Steven Richard, to the hospital at the same time.

“It was back March of 2020, very early on when all of this started happening and unraveling here in the states. Karen and her husband Steven were so very sick one weekend, and it was on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. They drove themselves to Winchester Hospital. They took Steven right away. Karen had to wait in her car for hours. They brought her in, and them saying goodbye to each other from the car was the last time they saw each other,” she recalled.

McArthur said Steven passed away a week later, while Karen fought “like a warrior” to survive.

“She was intubated for 31 days. She not only had COVID, but she developed a second infection. She was transported to Lahey in Burlington from Winchester, and she fought very hard to survive. It took months. She was out of her home for 186 days. She recouped at my home with my family, but it was quite the journey, and it was truly something I wish on no one,” she said.

McArthur said she received a call from doctors every night for the latest update, that she recorded in a notebook she kept with her 24/7.

“And every night they would start by saying ‘Karen is very sick, and let me tell you what we’re thinking,’ and at the time it was so early on, they were flying by the seat of their pants. What we learned in Italy was…or what we’ve learned from California was…everybody was just learning from each other. The research, every procedure, every med. It was something that was difficult, but she survived and we are so very grateful for it and to have been honored by how we handled ourselves throughout this and how she was just inspiring to all around her, living a life of gratitude. It was very humbling, very humbling,” McArthur said.

McArthur was a recent guest on WHAV’s morning show.

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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