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Highland Lakes women find friendship amid pandemic

Zy Baig and Becky Page

Zy Baig (left) and Becky Page celebrate one year of friendship after COVID-19 brought them together through the Highland Lakes Crisis Network. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Zy Baig insisted her friendship with Becky Page is a big reason she’s lived through the pandemic.

“I seriously don’t think I could have survived emotionally and physically had she not come into my life, and that is not an exaggeration,” said Baig, sitting across from Page. “The goodness, the kindness she and her husband (John) showed me was wonderful, and they never made me feel for a second that I was a burden.”

Page smiled.

“It’s been an honor to serve you, and, for me, I’ve also made a great friend,” Page said. “Had it not been for this pandemic, we probably would have never met.”

Page is Baig’s shepherd through the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, a volunteer who helps someone recover from a disaster or deal with a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

To Baig, Page was the answer to a prayer she made in March 2020. Just as the pandemic was taking hold, Baig, who suffers from an auto-immune disease, was hospitalized. When she was released, she was extremely tired and weak. Her disease puts her in a very high-risk category for diseases such as COVID-19.

Even in her weakened state, Baig attempted to shop for groceries but found empty shelves at H-E-B. She could barely make it halfway through the store because of her health.

When she returned to her Cottonwood Shores home, despair set in. How would she survive if she couldn’t get out of the house? 

Baig sent a prayer that night to God, asking for help.

“The next day, I read an article where Kevin (Naumann) said if people needed help, call the (Highland Lakes Crisis Network),” Baig said. “I thought, ‘My God, my prayers have been answered.’”

She made the call. Someone took down her information and promised another person would be in touch. 

Page called the next day.

“My guardian angel,” Baig described Page.

When the pandemic started, Page volunteered to help with the network’s feeding program, which made meals to deliver to people in need across the Highland Lakes. 

Baig’s case was Page’s first time as a shepherd. She handled all of Baig’s shopping during the pandemic as well as other needed tasks. Page’s husband, John, helped get Baig’s car running after it sat for almost a year.

Baig said Page even went shopping for her the day before Page was scheduled for surgery in July to remove a brain aneurysm. 

The regular interaction with Page — even from a safe distance — was just as important as the shopping and extra help, Baig said. For most of the year, Page was her sole contact. 

Due to her auto-immune condition, Baig only went for walks at night to limit contact with others and minimize the risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Page brought peace of mind to Baig and her family, who lives elsewhere.

“They were glad that I had someone here helping me,” Baig said.

After her last attempted grocery shopping trip in March 2020, Baig’s next outing was to vote in the presidential election that fall. Page drove her to cast her ballot. Later, Page took Baig to a clinic for her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Baig is now fully vaccinated and feels a little safer venturing out. 

Though Page started as Baig’s shepherd, their relationship has grown into a friendship.

“Every single day, I’m in such a state of gratitude for Becky,” Baig said.

“We probably would have never crossed paths other than for this pandemic,” Page added.

Volunteering as a shepherd through the Highland Lakes Crisis Network isn’t the time commitment people might think it is, Page said. 

“The benefits are exponential,” she added.

Check out the HLCN website for information on volunteering or assistance. 

While the network’s goal is to help people in times of need, friendships often form. 

“It’s been a source of comfort for me to have Becky in my life,” Baig said. “I’m so glad to call her my friend.”

daniel@thepicayune.com