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I’m a first-generation immigrant. My parents came from Guyana, got married in America and then I was born. My dad came from literal dirt roads — those things influence you as you get older. Me, I grew up in Queens. The part of Queens where I live definitely has a Caribbean influence, with people from Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica here. My dad became a steam fitter foreman and he used to take my sister and me to his jobsites. When it came time for me to go to college, I asked him, “What should I do?” His response: “Well, what do you want to do?” I told him I legitimately had no idea. So, he told me to go be an engineer.
He had gotten sick with diabetes when I was in high school, so I used to take care of him — stay at home some days, give him his insulin. But when I turned 20, he had a massive heart attack that he did not recover from. My sister was pregnant at the time with her first baby, which we never knew was possible because she had cancer as a child. It was like the stars were aligning. Then they kind of just fell.
It was like the stars were aligning. Then they kind of just fell.
Guyanese culture is very family-oriented because when you're growing up, the entertainment isn’t TV. The entertainment is each other. A lot of hanging out after work, drinking a beer, parties and events every weekend. You build your house, your kids live in that house, your grandkids live in that house. To not have my dad in the house was a very big deal for us. He was the jokester and my friend — we’d watch cartoons together, we’d play games, he’d give me life lessons. When he was gone, it was like the safety net was no longer there for us.
Building this hospital is personal to me because my dad passed away at the Northwell Hospital in Manhasset. I would want another 20-year-old girl to have the ability to take her dad to Northwell with the possibility of saving his life. I know we're not building something that people can just visit and leave. And I know my family is proud. It's something that's saving people's lives and helping the community. Twenty-year-old Shoma was really broken because of everything that happened in her life. But, 20-year-old Shoma had good support. My family, my now-husband, my friends, we were all living and experiencing life together. If I could have talked to her then, I would have told her to keep going. Your dad's always there with you. Mom's always there with you. Everybody who's important is always by your side somehow.
Two days ago, I dreamed about him. It had been a long time since I'd dreamed about him. We were just walking down the road and I said, I'm doing well. And he's like, I know.
Shoma Ramraj is an assistant project manager at our South Shore University Hospital project in Bay Shore, N.Y. Despite her family’s love for the game, she is a lousy cricket player.
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