January 18, 2018
A Beth Abraham Love Story: How Vanessa and Dennis found each other
Love knows no bounds. Not even a severe disability can stop the inevitable.
And two residents at Beth Abraham Rehab Center, after a decade and a half, are the proof.
Vanessa Carey, 29, and 31-year-old Heriberto ‘Dennis’ Dipres have known each other for more than 15 years and both have cerebral palsy.
The two met as young teenagers at the Westchester School For Special Children and at 13-years-old and 15-years-old, it was love at first sight.
“When they got me on the school bus [on the first day] I was sitting behind him,” said Carey, smiling at Dennis. “I was touching his chair, holding it and then when we got to school, when they turned him around, I was like, oh he’s cute!”
“But I could never speak to her,” added Dipres.
“Because he was shy it was up to me to bring him out of his shell,” finished Carey.
They both grew up near Yankee Stadium and were even born at Lincoln Hospital in Mott Haven.
However, their relationship is more than just your average childhood love story.
While their disabilites threw up roadblocks and complicated their love and affection for one another, over time it has perservered.
“When I went to school, I would cry a lot and he knew why,” Carey said. “I was abused for 17 years in my own apartment [by the woman who was supposed to be taking care of me].”
“It was always hard for me because I felt like there was nothing I could really do for her [because of my condition],” Dipres said.
The two recalled an incident when Dennis tried to visit Vanessa at her home to make sure she was doing okay and her caretaker was not doing anything malicious.
“When I got there, [Carey’s caretaker] asked me what I was doing there,” said Dennis.
“It’s a good thing my uncle was there. He said to the lady, ‘Chill that’s her boyfriend,’” Carey added.
“When I was leaving, the lady told me if I ever came back something might happen to Vanessa. So I said to myself, even though it’ll be hard, I will stay away from Vanessa for her own safety,” said Dipres.
For several years, the two were apart as Dennis heeded the caretaker’s threat.
Dennis arrived at the Beth Abraham six years ago, and Vanessa entered the facility in 2015.
“I was in the library [at the center] doing an activity with a group when he saw me again,” said Carey as she smiled.
“I said Vanessa is that you,” recalled Dipres.
“I said D is that you,” added Carey excitedly.
It was the first time the two had seen each other since Dennis’ fateful visit to her apartment.
“I told him about everything that happened since he left,” said Vanessa as Dennis reached out to hold her hand.
She told him how her caretaker locked her in her room and used a cable to hold the door closed.
“I never should have left,” said Dipres with a pained look on his face. “I should have stayed.”
As the two now look towards a life together, they’ve discussed moving to their own place and getting married.
“We’ll just make the best of it with each other, try to make [life] as happy as it can be as we both care for each other,” remarked Dipres. “I want to spend the rest of my life with her, I want to make her as happy as she makes me.”