Officer fighting to return to beat
NAUGATUCK — When Officer Danielle Parady of the Naugatuck Police Department returned to work, 18 months after she was told she had four months to live, loved ones and co-workers called her an inspiration.
Yet working on administrative tasks indoors was not good enough for Parady, a 42-year-old single mother battling internal melanoma. Parady pushed papers for as long as the borough could let her and is now home again, in the Kosko Lane house she shares with her parents and daughter, for six months of sick leave.
After Parady’s leave ends, her goal is to get her job back as a patrol officer.
“That’s my big thing,” Parady said. “It will be a miracle.”
Parady still has a badge, a paycheck and health insurance thanks to fellow borough employees, who donated unused sick time to Parady with authorization from Mayor Robert Mezzo. Donated sick time also covered Parady for a year and a half after she was diagnosed, so she did not have high expectations once her temporary light duty assignment ended.
“I never thought they would do it again,” Parady said. “It made me very, very surprised and happy.”
Parady’s melanoma is a rare version that only grows inside the body. When she was diagnosed two years ago, after collapsing in the Walmart parking lot while on patrol, the cancer had spread to her lungs and brain. She has undergone chemotherapy, radiation and six surgeries, including two to her brain.
After a recent round of chemotherapy and radiation, Parady said the doctor did not find any cancer, although it could come back any day. The swelling in her lungs and brain is going down, and her voice and speech are coming back.
Parady’s X-rays were so good at her last appointment that the doctor did a double take, she said.
“He’s good with me, but I’d never seen him smile,” she said.
Parady said she had been worried the brain damage would prevent her from working again and she had not known whether it would get better. Now she is not taking medication and she is exercising every day, working to get strong enough for patrol. If she cannot go back to work Feb. 3, when her sick time runs out, she will go on long-term disability, but that too is temporary.
“They’re prolonging that as long as they can to give her a chance to get better,” said Diana Parady, Danielle’s mother.
Danielle Parady was honored as Officer of the Year months before she became ill and has been praised for her undercover work. She has been a borough officer for six years.
Borough workers are not the only ones who have helped Parady. After she was diagnosed, she wanted to put her daughter Taya, now 14, in smaller private schools where she would have more attention during the struggle ahead. St. Francis of Assisi School in the borough let Taya attend for free for two years, and now Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury is forgiving about half of her tuition, Danielle Parady said.
Campers at White Pines Campsites in Barkhamsted, where the family spends summer months, have given checks and donations, Diana Parady said. Neighbors and friends have paid for dinners out and beach trips. They have cooked meals, fixed computers for free and paid for gas for the trip to New Haven, where Danielle Parady is being treated at the Smilow Cancer Hospital.
The entire family is grateful for the support, sometimes from people they barely know, Diana Parady said.
“You definitely know there’s good people left in this world,” she said.