Valerie Kelsey

Valerie Kelsey (Brownsville Recreation Center)

Valerie Kelsey_02My name is Valerie Kelsey and I was born in Manchester Jamaica, West Indies in Trinity district. I came here when I was just about seventeen. I’ve lived in Brooklyn ever since I came here in September of 1970. New York was an adjustment at first, because back home you got your big yard, you got your fowl, rooster, everything! Even the traffic was hard to get used to. Although back home we were living near the road, the traffic here just seemed crazy. I think I cried for about six months. I wanted to go home and I did after a year. I was a single mom but I always had family support, so it was not that hard. Although I didn’t finish high school and didn’t go to college, I’ve never been on welfare, I’ve just always been working. My sons finished high school and went to college, though my youngest son passed away ten years ago.

I’m from a family of fourteen brothers and sisters. Ten are still alive and I’m the second to last girl. We spread out a lot—I have a sister and a brother in England, I have a sister and a brother here, a sister and two brothers in Florida, and then I have two brothers back home, and two brothers and two sisters passed away. We’re very close knit. If something happens to one of us, it’s like a channel, it goes through all of us. We’re a very tight family, very tight. Even my sister in Florida—she’s the oldest sister, and when we were in Jamaica I was raised with her for a while, so we are the closest. So when I hurt, she hurts. If I’m feeling low she could pick it up, and vice versa. Five years ago I had brain surgery. I was having major headaches, and they just kept treating me for migraines. And then finally they did an MRI, and they saw I was bleeding in my brain. From there they took me straight to the hospital, and I had brain surgery. So I was off for about six months from work, and I had to re-learn to walk, talk, and write. That was five years ago. I remember exactly because my grandson was born in the hospital across from me, and he was a preemie baby. We came out of the hospital on the same day, the fourth of July.

So I thank God every day, because the doctor told me I might have to be on a respirator for a while. I didn’t stay on a respirator at all. I stayed in the recovery room for two weeks, then they sent me to rehab for a week, and then I came home. So I’ve been there and back. Without God and family and friends, I’d never have survived. I give all my praise to the Lord.

I work as a CNA at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital and I’ve been there for thirty-three years. I started in the orthopedic unit, but I’ve been working in the recovery room for twenty-seven years. I really enjoy working there and I enjoy helping the people. Since I went through my surgery, it’s helped me be even more dedicated to helping people as best as I can. I’ve been on the night shift for thirty-three years this year. In the morning, I come home, change, and I go straight to the gym at Brownsville. I have so much energy once I’m in the gym!

I’m looking forward to The Tempest. I love dancing; most of my friends would tell you, I’m a dance freak. I love to dance and I love music. I also love to travel, that’s my favorite thing. I travel four times a year, always to a different country. I last went to Barcelona and Rome, Italy. This year we’re going to the Southern Caribbean in October. I also recently got back from London. In January I was in The Philippines for two weeks, so I just love traveling!


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Founded by Joseph Papp as the Shakespeare Workshop and now one of the nation’s preeminent cultural institutions, The Public is an American theater in which all of the country’s voices, rhythms, and cultures converge.
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