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Slots, Slides and Setting Sail: Meet Roberta Lewis


Her friends at Kittay House know that tenant Roberta Lewis is successful at working the slots on their trips to the casino. What her new peers might not know is that in her former profession, she played an important role in saving lives.

For more than 30 years, the former Harlem resident worked in the Hematology department as a licensed stat laboratory technician at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, analyzing slides for serious blood dysplasia. Roberta reports, “Evaluating abnormalities in the cells, and getting the information back to the surgeons quickly was the bulk of my job. They couldn’t proceed and operate without this critical information in an emergency situation.”

Some of her other responsibilities included interpreting specimens so that doctors could determine the levels of chemotherapy that were needed to be administered to the patient. Roberta, whose enjoyment of her profession was tempered by the implications of it, says “the patient could suffer serious ramifications if my work had errors.”

Taking an early retirement at 55, Roberta says, “When I figured out I could live nicely on my pension, I decided it was time for chapter two.”

Next up: travel. Roberta set sail on seven cruises during her early retirement. Traveling solo afforded her many unique experiences and interactions with people from all walks of life. Sailing to Belize, St, Martin, Barbados and Mexico, she sometimes would extend her trip spontaneously and stay at a place she liked for a month. “No kids, no work, what was my hurry?” she recalls with a huge smile.