Brian Souza saw it on his mother’s face every time she came home from work.
The concern. The exhaustion. The lines in her flesh from where the mask she wore all day created grooves.
Souza, a senior captain on the St. John’s Prep lacrosse team, sidelined like thousands of others in the region during the coronavirus pandemic this spring, decided to do something about it.
“My mom’s struggling. Her co-workers are struggling,” said Souza. “I thought if we could just get a collection going, that could help out.”
Danielle Souza, a single mother of three teenagers, is one of the nursing directors of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, someone who’s seen first-hand — and battled — the ravages of COVID-19, over and over, every day.
Working in conjunction with associate head of school Dr. Keith Crowley, assistant principal for student life Wendy Olson, and marketing and communications director James Frackleton, Souza reached out to the St. John’s Prep community.
In a letter two weeks ago, he made a plea for supplies to be donated during a one-day drive at the Danvers, Mass., school on March 25, which would then be delivered to healthcare workers like his mom: N95 masks, surgical masks, procedural masks, masks with fluid shields, latex-free gloves, clear-lens goggles (including safety goggles) and hand sanitizer.
Those who didn’t have the items handy, and could afford it, were encouraged to make monetary donations to the COVID-19 relief fund at Beth Israel.
“It’s wonderful to see our students recognize the needs within the community beyond St. John’s and make those a priority,” said Crowley. “Brian’s initiative to organize and implement a collection of PPE for medical professionals is a prime example of our students living out the call to be servant-leaders and positively influence situations for the benefit of others.”
“I was very pleased,” Souza said. “We were planning to have it run for three days (before Gov. Charlie Baker issued a stay-at-home advisory on March 23). I’m sure we would have gotten more supplies, but one day really put the urgency on it.”
The supplies were collected, with other St. John’s Prep lacrosse players assisting, and delivered to the loading dock at Beth Israel, where his mother helped distribute them to colleagues on multiple floors.
“She’s been telling me that all the supplies have been used in the last two weeks,” he said.
Souza, one of five captains on this year’s St. John’s Prep team, is still hoping for the best this spring, an abbreviated season that won’t start before at least May 4, in conjunction with Baker’s stay-at-home advisory.
Last year, as a key two-way player, he scored 16 goals and added six assists for a Prep team that reached the Division 1 North sectional final, losing to eventual state champion Lincoln-Sudbury. He’s been playing club with the Fighting Clams since the seventh grade, and next year he’ll take his game to Division 3 St. Lawrence.
“It’s a very cool thing they did,” noted Clams president Justin Walker.
Souza, the youngest of three triplets — brother Cam, a Hartford commit, and sister Kaylee attend Wakefield High School — said having a mother so close to the crisis has opened his eyes to the dangers.
“A lot of it is how easily the virus can be spread,” he said. “On her floor she’s had four of her nurses test positive and no one on that floor is a COVID-19 patient. It really speaks to the need for social distancing.”
As he and his Prep teammates wait and see whether they’ll have a season, Souza applauds the work people like his mother are doing daily in this fight.
“It’s a strenuous and long day for her,” he said. “I can see it on her face. She’s tired. She has marks on her face because of the mask.
“But she loves her job. I’m really glad we have great people like her taking care of us.”