A simple conversation made a lasting impact on a GO customer with an invisible illness.
It was two weeks after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 when Beth Pardo started suffering from what would turn into long COVID.
“I was an ultramarathoner and it hit my legs really badly,” said Pardo, who was also diagnosed with Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
“I have a very limited amount of energy. Every morning I wake up feeling like I’m running a marathon I didn’t train for.”
About a year after her diagnosis, the 45-year-old created a TikTok account to chronicle her journey and raise awareness of long COVID, and has amassed more than 55,000 followers.
Pardo, who works from home, makes the trek into her office in downtown Toronto every few months often using a walker, and situates herself in the GO Train’s accessibility coach.
While she was heading home on the Kitchener GO Line on Aug. 16, she overheard a customer asking Customer Service Ambassador (CSA) Armaan Hafiz, why he put the ramp out at every station stop if he didn’t see anyone using mobility aids. CSAs are contracted by Alstom to operate GO Trains.
“He said because not everybody has a visible disability,” Pardo recalled.
“I have an invisible illness, and I don’t always have my walker with me. He had such a firm understanding and I became every emotional and called my husband. I felt very well supported by the CSA. It genuinely gave me hope for the younger generation.”
While she didn’t tell the CSA how much of an impact his words had on her, she did take to TikTok to create a video of what happened and to express her gratitude, which has racked up some 8,400 views, 1,575 likes, and 75 comments, many of which echo Pardo’s positive experience travelling with GO Transit.
“It’s good to get a pat on the back for what we do,” said Aleks Pesic, Alstom’s manager of customer service – Metrolinx operations.
“I think Armaan is a great representative of our entire CSA team, and the level of awareness and service all passengers needing accessibility can expect. It’s always nice to get a commendation and to put a smile on people’s faces.”
Story by Fannie Sunshine, Metrolinx media relations advisor