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Doris Oyakapeli: Shared Living Caregiver, Life-Saver

When Doris Oyakapeli showed up for her job as a direct care support last month, she had no idea that she was going to save a life. Doris, who is also a Nonotuck shared living provider in Hadley, arrived at work at a community residence and began her night as she usually does: by checking on the three women who receive services at the facility.

The first two women were fine, but Doris was greeted by a ghastly sound when she checked on the third woman: she was choking. The woman, named Alison, was prone to seizures, and had seized and subsequently vomited and choked.  

Doris called 911 immediately, and rushed back to Alison’s side. Remembering her training (CPR can’t be effectively rendered on a soft surface like a mattress), Doris pulled her gently to the floor, clearing her airway and beginning chest compressions. “ At that moment, I did what I had to do. My instinct just kicked in; it was just so overwhelming,” Doris says. 

When first responders arrived shortly after, Alison didn’t have a pulse, and Doris feared the worst. “After they took her out,  I didn’t know if she was going to make it: she looked horrible,” she says. “The following day I had to call out. Even when I was doing CPR, she was quiet. After two days, they said she was doing okay, and I felt better.”

Doris insists her act of heroism was all in a days’ work. “For me, I always feel like it's very important, we keep checking on the individuals that we take care of,” she says.”Most of the people we serve have a tendency of choking. When they’re eating, it’s very important for staff to sit around and watch them. Go around and check: make sure everyone is okay.”

“I just did what anyone else would’ve done,” she says. 

Doris has been a Nonotuck shared living caregiver for five years.

Learn more about shared living at Nonotuck Resource Associates

“(Through shared living) people with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.”

Caregiving with Love:
Guide for Shared Living Providers

Learn how Nonotuck developed a love-based ideology of care. We started our shared living program as an alternative to group homes for people with disabilities. Instead, Shared Living creates genuine life transformation for people with disabilities, as well as families and communities. The true power of caregiving is found through hospitality, authenticity, and love.

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