COVID-19 hits Upstate Foundation in a very personal way 

Even as Upstate Medical University was rising to meet the threat of COVID-19, and the Upstate Foundation was introducing new funds to help with the crisis, the worldwide coronavirus outbreak struck close to home when 20-year-old Patrick Penfield, who is the son of the Foundation’s Kristen Penfield, tested positive for the virus. 

A junior at Syracuse University, Patrick was just two months into a semester abroad when the virus began to spread across that continent. 

“I began studying in London in January, but since I’d never been to Europe before I wanted to travel as much as possible,” said Patrick. “I went to Paris, Madrid, and then, about a week before the coronavirus really hit the headlines and people became concerned about traveling, I took my spring break in Barcelona and Tenerife in the Canary Islands. I believe I got sick in one of those last two places because of the timeline.” 

His overseas studies cut short, Patrick returned to his home in Lysander and immediately self-isolated as a precaution. Sure enough, he – like other students from the same program – began showing symptoms and tested positive for novel coronavirus. At this point, his voluntary quarantine became a court-ordered one, with his concerned family delivering food to his bedroom and use of a separate restroom. 

“I started to lose my mind after a while, I’m not going to lie,” he jokes now. But family support, twice-daily check-ins from the Onondaga County Health Department, reading, learning Chinese, and a goodly dose of Netflix helped him through the fear, barrage of virus-related news and social distancing. 

Deprived of his coursework in London, he still learned a few lessons. 

“First, I’ve got a tremendous, newfound respect for health care workers now; the people doing my tests were putting their lives at risk every single day, so I really commend them.” 

He also appreciates how the Upstate Foundation, where his mother works, responded with COVID-19 funds that offered support to Upstate Medical University students and employees facing financial hardship from the virus outbreak, “I’m fortunate enough to have my family and we are able to get groceries and basic necessities for daily life. But there are lot of people who don’t have that.” 

And, not least of all, his scary brush with coronavirus has driven home the value of giving back -- starting with his willingness to “go public” to help inform others, and donating his blood and plasma to Upstate as a recovered COVID-19 patient, to help treat others who are critically ill. 


Consider a making a gift to the Upstate Foundation's Friend In Deed Annual Fund to assist with patient needs, line T.G. Click here to donate today.