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Special surprise for an 'unsung hero' in the fight against COVID-19

'No matter what the obstacles she's facing, she continues to push through it and maintain an inspiring attitude.'

PARMA, Ohio — Inside University Hospitals Parma Medical Center is a humble hero. She doesn't wear a cape, but she does suit up to battle an invisible enemy.

“Watching her, it uplifted me," says Eric Vidal, the environmental services supervisor at UH Parma.

Vidal manages the cleaning and sanitization of the hospital, and describes his employee Stacy Howard as an inspiration.

“No matter what the obstacles she's facing, she continues to push through it and maintain an inspiring attitude.”

PERSEVERING THROUGH HARDSHIPS

Howard and her family lost their home after last year's deadly fire at Camelot Apartments in Parma Heights.

“The whole building was pretty much unlivable,” says Howard. “We went to go live with my sister for a while until we were able to get back on our feet and find a new place.”

RELATED: 911 AUDIO | 1 dead, more than 100 displaced following fire at Parma Heights apartment complex

If surviving a fire that took her home and the life of one of her neighbors wasn't enough to press through, several weeks ago Stacy had to self-quarantine away from her family for 14 days. She had been exposed to COVID-19 when she cleaned a patient's room who later tested positive for the disease.

“She was one of the first people to be exposed,” says Vidal. “At that time it was more of a frightening environment.”

The mother of two says she was shocked and a little nervous. Howard never contracted COVID-19, so she returned to work.

She even volunteered to clean the floors of University Hospitals where patients with the novel coronavirus were staying. She didn't want her colleague, whose family members are at risk for developing complications from COVID-19, to be exposed when cleaning those rooms.

IT’S MY JOB

Howard’s co-worker Nedjeljka “Neddie” Grabundzija, who was the recipient of the kind gesture, recalled the first thing she said when she heard about Howard's offer.

“Oh my gosh I'm like, ‘Stacy you're the best,’” says Grabundzija. “'You are over here saving my life. Not just mine, my whole family.’”

Howard says it was what she was supposed to do.

“It's my job to do that.” 

Considering the pandemic, it’s a job Vidal compares to a superhero who moves in the shadows.

“Just like Batman, he does things at night, doesn't always get recognized for it and that's what EVS workers do," says Vidal. "We're the last line of defense.”

STACY’S SURPRISE

In addition to working at University Hospitals, Howard is pursuing an associate degree in graphic design at Cuyahoga Community College.

3News shared her story with Tri-C, and the school surprised this unsung hero with a scholarship to help Howard cover the cost of finishing her degree.

“I’m just shocked and amazed,” says Howard. “I honestly don’t feel like I did anything special to deserve anything. I can’t believe it.” 

RELATED: 'I felt almost a calling to switch careers': Tri-C nursing student explains why she wants to join the front line