Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘The biggest thing for us was that they couldn’t promise she would ever leave the hospital. We said, ‘how is that fair to a child who deserves the best, if she could never come home and have that with us?’

Ronkonkoma

“We found out I was pregnant in March of 2017. Everything was going pretty good. There were no indications anything was wrong. When I went for my anatomy scan, they had seen some things that were kind of concerning. We met with the doctor after the ultrasounds and they had seen a growth on her neck. They knew it was growing and with that came complications. If it was the better case of scenarios, it would be a high-risk pregnancy, but she would come home and live a fairly normal life.

“It ended up not being the better case. It ended up being a cervical lymphangioma. It was growing into the lymph nodes and muscles and tissues around her neck.

“My husband and I looked at each other in that meeting and knew what we were going to do, even though we didn’t say the words yet. The biggest thing for us was that they couldn’t promise she would ever leave the hospital. We said, how is that fair to a child who deserves the best, if she could never come home and have that with us?

I decided every year around her due date, I would offer sessions to other parents who lost a child.

“Being a newborn photographer, that wasn’t something I wanted to go back to right away. When I went back, we had to share what happened with everyone, it wasn’t something we could hide. In the long run, it helped me heal. It’s helped me become an advocate for child loss and infant loss. I decided every year around her due date, I would offer sessions to other parents who lost a child. It allows me to talk about my daughter and them to talk about their children. I know how much it means to them.

“I found out I was having my daughter Morgan on Nov. 27, when Amelia would have been born Nov. 28. Morgan came Aug. 13, about three weeks after Amelia had her first birthday. I suffered greatly from postpartum depression for about four months. I think losing Amelia and getting pregnant so quickly, there was guilt, grief and it was hard to bond. I didn’t feel what everyone said I would feel. There was a lot of going through the motions and coming to terms with those feelings. It’s not that I didn’t love her, it was just hard to get out of that fog. But I’ll never forget when Morgan turned four weeks old and she smiled for the first time. It was like nothing else mattered.”

‘I think everyone has a gift, and no matter what, you should always do your gift. Maybe you won’t make it big, but at least you will make it big in your heart and your own mind.’

Ronkonkoma

“At 12 years old, I taught myself how to play piano. I always loved music. In the ninth grade, I played keyboard and sang in my first band, Blitzkrieg. At around 19, I was playing at local Long Island clubs and bars constantly. I was the manager of the band and kept us very busy because I wanted to pursue music while I was still young. My brother and I used to paint cars in a garage, so I worked as a teacher’s aide in an auto body class while playing in a group called The Teachers. When I was playing in clubs, my life got a little crazy. There was alcohol and the atmosphere was wild. I did things that I regret, but two things remained a constant: music and my association with the Lord.

The Christian music got me out of the clubs, and my love for my wife encouraged me to work for a living.

“In my mid-20s, I began teaching myself chords on the guitar. My friend and I would write Christian songs, just two guitars and singing harmony. The Christian music got me out of the clubs, and my love for my wife encouraged me to work for a living. I started working with electronic factories which kept me employed for more than 20 years, at the tail end of which I saw the business fall apart. I was laid off at least five times from different jobs. My two beautiful daughters were young, so I was always working part-time jobs after work to support my family, but I was still playing music. I went to Alabama’s Civic Center with a gospel group and played to 500 people.

“At 49, I was out of work for eight months. I was really persistent in applying to work with the LIRR. I had to pass rigorous tests, including an electronics test and a physical. I was 50, so it wasn’t easy. It was challenging to learn the entire signaling system after not having been in school in 30 years. Now I’ve been a signalman for 17 years, and I’ve also been serving the Lord at churches and playing Christian music for almost 40 years. I’ve grown from it because it helps me to try to be a better human being in a world that sees a lot of unkind people. I think everyone has a gift, and no matter what, you should always do your gift. Maybe you won’t make it big, but at least you will make it big in your heart and your own mind.”