Meet Michelle and Christine: Proving Social Connection is the Doorway to a Full Life

Read how Michelle’s world opened back up with the help of Papa Pal Christine, who brings companionship and a new adventure with each visit.

Papa member Michelle began her nursing career right out of high school and worked as a nurse for nearly two decades. She loved her job and loved taking care of people—she was really good at it too. It was a perfect fit.

Then, at the age of 35, she had a stroke-like attack that revealed a rare, progressive cerebrovascular disorder called Moyamoya. In simple terms, the arteries at the base of her brain were blocked and she had to undergo emergency surgery. 

Life for Michelle changed forever.

Michelle’s family reaches out for help

Today, Michelle, 53, spends most of her days at home. Her husband, mother, and two sisters are very hands-on and supportive, but their time is limited. After noticing Michelle’s mobility declining in recent months, her younger sister, Jennifer, talked to Michelle’s husband about looking at her medical coverage to see if she qualified for assistance.

Jennifer found Papa was offered through Michelle’s health plan and made a call. She couldn’t believe how easy it was. 

Michelle was connected to Papa Pal Christine. Jennifer spoke to Christine before their first visit and explained they didn’t need any medical support, cooking, nor cleaning for Michelle. They had all of that covered. What they really wanted was companionship. Even though Michelle had never once complained about her condition, Jennifer felt like Michelle’s window to the world had been closed, and she wanted to see it open back up.

Meet Papa Pal Christine

Christine owned a gymnastics gym for eight years, but had to close it during COVID. She missed coaching and supporting kids, and becoming a Papa Pal felt like a way she could do something similar, but with adults. She found that she really enjoyed it—and she was good at it too.

She had only planned on being a Papa Pal temporarily. Then she started getting requests from members who wanted her to come back for more visits. This wasn’t just a job; she was creating real bonds with people. It was such a simple way to provide companionship and friendship to those who needed it. And she was able to see growth in her members from visit to visit, much like she saw as a gymnastics coach.

She hadn’t expected this “temporary” job to bring such lasting fulfillment.

Christine and Michelle hit it off from the beginning

Christine met with Michelle and her husband first to see if they clicked. And they did—just as Jennifer knew they would. “Just talking to Christine for the first time on the phone, I felt like she was already a friend from the first moment,” Jennifer said of their initial conversation.

Christine noted that Michelle was mostly self-sufficient. She was just moving slowly and would sometimes forget things. Christine began to plan activities they could do outside the house on their visits.

Their first visit was an outing to get ice cream. On the way, they stopped at a few thrift stores and had a great time looking at antiques and good deals. They decided that, during each visit, they would explore somewhere new and find a new place to eat lunch. They’re both excited to try new things and support local businesses.

They’ve eaten Mexican food and visited cafés with homemade desserts. They even went to hibachi—it was Michelle’s first-ever experience and she loved it. They drove around the neighborhood where Michelle grew up so she could see her childhood home and school. They have plans to attend a local play.

Their time together is something they both look forward to very much.

Michelle’s family says her spark is back

Christine says her visits with Michelle feel special, “a bit closer to the heart.” She loves getting to know more about Michelle and enjoys watching her spirits lift higher and higher with each visit. She’s even seen an increase in Michelle’s physical mobility as Michelle has made a renewed effort to go to physical therapy. Before each visit, Christine asks herself, “How can I make Michelle’s days more fulfilling?”

Jennifer, who says Christine has been a savior to her sister, is so happy the two of them are having so much fun on their excursions. She told them recently, “I want to take an afternoon off and go out with you guys too!”

Christine and Michelle’s relationship has had quite an impact on Michelle’s family as well. As Christine said, “They do a lot for Michelle, but it’s different when you have a friend.”

Jennifer also commented on the ease of setting up Papa Pal visits. “To know that my sister’s world has opened back up, I can’t even tell you what that means.” She’s so grateful for the partnership between Papa and Michelle’s insurance company.

This Papa connection is mutually beneficial

It’s clear to Jennifer this is a connection that has touched both Michelle and Christine deeply. “I get the sense they’re both getting just as much out of this relationship,” she says.

It’s true. Even as Christine gears up to open another gymnastics gym, she’s going to keep taking visits with Michelle. Christine says: “I felt in my heart that I was not only doing a job, I was building relationships and making a difference in someone else’s life.” 

Michelle’s mom recently gifted Christine a large fern. Christine sees a deeper meaning to the gift. “Maybe she thought I brought life to her family, so she wanted to bring life to mine,” she said. Whatever the reason, the gesture touched her deeply—and so has Michelle. “Meeting Michelle touched a part of me that felt like I was meant to be where I was.”