Juanita & Taylor Viale

We have spent the better part of this year staring at Covid figures and graphs, and hearing about how care homes have been particularly vulnerable to the virus. It is easy to forget that it is not just the elderly living in assisted accommodation. The story of Juanita Viale and her disabled daughter Taylor is one of hope.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Juanita Viale was working for a Stanford-funded startup in San Francisco when her dad passed away. She decided to relocate to Costa Rica and settled in Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast, known for surfing thanks to the 1966 Robert August documentary classic, Endless Summer.

By 2007, she was living in San José when her youngest daughter Taylor suffered a brain hemorrhage at birth leaving her permanently disabled. Juanita and her husband decided to move Taylor and her older sister Isabella to France the following year. “My now ex-husband’s grandfather welcomed us with open arms to his 30-hectare vineyard, Coteaux de Bellet, behind Nice, and I stayed there for the next nine years.”

Taking care of the girls, especially with Taylor’s needs, was a full-time job but after a four-year hiatus from the work force, Juanita managed to land a gig in her field of communications and marketing.  “On my second day of work I was already in Monaco on the air at Riviera Radio giving weekly property reports, a vast contrast to being a stay-at-home-mom.”

While her marketing consulting and coaching business grew, her marriage, unfortunately, did not. By the autumn of 2019, Taylor moved into a center for severely disabled children in Saint Antoine Ginestiere, in Nice, operated by the Lenval Foundation, coming home on the weekends. During this same period, Juanita moved around 40 kilometers behind Nice to live in a forest.

“I found my French version of Costa Rica! As I live on a 7-hectare forest my lifestyle is pretty isolated, so when the first lockdown happened, nothing really changed for me since I live and run my business Marketing & Mindset Coaching from home anyway.

Taylor is allowed to come home weekends for this second confinement.

“However, the challenge was with Taylor. Under strict confinement restrictions she was not allowed to leave the center since they were all vulnerable. I didn’t see Taylor for two months with the exception of daily Facetime calls. She held out fine for the first month, but showed signs of depression the second month, which is when Facetime calls became a lifesaver.”

While this weighed enormously on Juanita’s heart, the good news was that it was clear that her daughter Taylor was more aware of her surroundings than the family realized.

A few days prior to France’s second lockdown announcement, Taylor was hospitalized during the weekend for fatigue and no appetite. She was tested immediately for Covid with a negative result.

Juanita wasn’t allowed to visit because she hadn’t had a Covid test. Rapid testing is reserved for the patients only so when the hospital offered to give her a regular test, the results wouldn’t be ready before 48 hours. By that time Taylor would already be out of the hospital.

While Juanita “completely understood” the situation, this was the first time Taylor had to be alone in the hospital. “Even though I have full confidence in the nurses to be with her, knowing she was alone did not sit well with me. However I had no other choice but to surrender that worrying thought and replace it with the gratitude I have for all those doctors and nurses who take such great care of the children at Lenval.”

With this second lockdown that took effect October 30,, Taylor is able to come home on the weekends. “Such relief! But for Isabella, 18, who is going to school and doing her internship in Nice, it will be her first lockdown alone. Facetime it is!”

If there is any lesson Juanita Viale has learned from “The Year of Staying at Home” it is to be adaptabile.

“The more willing we are to live out of our comfort zone, we strengthen our adaptability skills. It is imperative to keep working on ourselves, challenging ourselves, checking in with ourselves, loving ourselves and developing a positive mindset that will serve as your anchor in a sea of uncertainty.”