Last time I posted about my dad losing his fight with COVID. Since then, I lost another family member. My uncle called the day after my dad died to tell us that he fell. My uncle had a myriad of medical issues, with one being severed COPD. My family (parents, cousins, etc.) followed guidelines and did not visit. My mom, who regularly visited her best friend/brother weekly hadn’t seen him since the shutdown in March. They spoke daily on the phone. My cousins did not visit their dad. I did not visit when I came to town. To visit my own parents, I would quarantine for two weeks before entering their home. We were cautious because we all knew our parents’ health was not conducive to a good end result with COVID.
Both my dad and uncle ended up in rehab/nursing facilities so they could get physical therapy following falls. Both became infected with the virus. Now my dad had a bad heart, but his degenerative arthritis was his main issue health wise. He would often get great reports from his doctors. His heart was stable with medication. His type 2 diabetes was pretty much non-existent towards the end because of his diet. Falling was his worst health issue. My uncle, on the other hand, had some serious medical issues and he, like my mother, used oxygen 24 hour a day to function with severe COPD. I remember speaking to my cousin when she was attempting to get her dad into a rehab facility. They had to search for a while until they found a facility that could provide the therapy he needed to recover from his fall, along with being COVID free. He was in the facility about 3 or 4 days when COVID caused his room to be moved. We were hopeful he wasn’t exposed. My uncle was tested the day before he was rushed to the hospital and tested negative for the virus. At the ER the following day, he tested positive. He died the about 24 hours later. My uncle didn’t have a chance of survival due to his lung disease and other health issues. The virus took him quickly. My dad’s health was a tad bit better. He fought the virus for a little over two weeks. The first week, we were told he was doing well and COVID was the least of his issues. Then the virus progressed and caused blood clots and organ failure. Ironically, his “bad” heart was the last thing to fail him. So when people have the gall to ask me about his pre-exisiting conditions, I make sure to add that his healthy organs failed before his “bad” heart. If my dad had been hit by a bus, no one would say, “Oh, his pre-existing conditions must have caused his death”. COVID was the catalyst for the death of both of my loved ones. My family did what we could to keep our elderly parents safe. When they needed medical assistance, we placed our trust in institutions that were supposed to heal them. Sadly, our dads became victims of the pandemic and died.
In a country that has politicized a virus beyond what is logically comprehended, we have failed our senior citizens. I see news stories now questioning whether or seniors in nursing homes should be the first ones to receive the vaccine (after healthcare workers). To this, I say ABSOLUTELY! It should just be that families do what it takes to keep our most vulnerable safe, but the facilities they must rely on also have to keep them safe. I still question why nursing homes are so conducive to spreading the virus?
Did our parents die because nursing home staff are so sick of precautions at work that they disregard it at home? Are the facilities so focused on protecting patients but not doing the same for their staff? Do nursing homes not have access to adequate PPE? Are safety measures put in place, but staff then eat lunch together in lunch rooms with masks off? Is it the fact that most severe cases of COVID are transferred to the hospital, so the staff doesn’t see the utter devastation of dying with this horrid virus? I know, first hand, how hard those frontline doctors and nurses (especially those nurses!!!) are working. I know there are equally dedicated staff working in long-term care facilities, so what is the problem? I’ve seen the safety gear they have to put on/take off over and over, just to carry a phone into a patient’s room. Those COVID warriors fought hard for my dad and uncle. On the flip side, I’ve heard social media anti-mask advocates claim that nursing home patients were on their way out anyway, so their deaths don’t really matter in the scheme of things. I’m here to say, my dad and uncle’s lives mattered. Their family is decimated by this unbearable loss. So are the family members of the other 253,242 United States citizens that have also lost their lives due to this pandemic.
I work in a school and we are constantly told “the virus isn’t being transmitted in schools”; however, I know dozens of people who were infected by asymptomatic children. The lasted reports from the CDC state 30% of recent covid diagnoses are in fact, children. Schools have taken severe precautions to decrease the social aspect of the education institution in order to slow the spread. The communal nature of nursing homes/rehabilitative hospitals leads itself to the spread of the virus, especially when residents have pre-existing conditions. Those residents are basically sitting ducks. This virus landed on our shores 9 months ago, yet we seem to be no better at protecting our most vulnerable citizens. Even I, with an immunocopromised system, am unable to receive ADA accomodations to better protect myself from exposure (according to my human resources). Now my poor mother lives in fear that I, too will catch the virus and won’t survive. I also fear my mother may need to go to the hospital if she falls or becomes ill and I’ll never see her again. I learned the hardware how tragic that can be. It’s pure hell to live this way.
I’m so very saddened by how politicized this pandemic has become. I’ve had good friends say, “If they don’t shut everything down, we should just be able to do whatever we want because most people will survive.” It is that attitude that killed my family members. I have no doubt that non-mask wearing, anti-social distancing people are the reason I can’t watch TV with my dad or listen to my mom chat with her brother late into the evening. Our government has failed us. Social media has spread too many lies and conspiracies. When people can’t make sense of things, they search for what makes sense to them and often ignore reality, science, and common sense. I can’t make sense of why I lost two people I love, so I will blame those who ignore science, facts, and prefer to think wearing a mask is the government’s way of controlling us. Shame on all of you.
So now I ask why? Why is the virus decimating family members in nursing homes and what is being done to stop this tragedy? Why do some members of society seem to dismiss COVID nursing home deaths as not being as important because most “healthy” people will survive. COVID is not the flu. COVID is not a cold. My dad and my uncle were veterans who deserved a better ending to their lives. They deserved to be surrounded by their loved ones as they passed on. They mean a great deal to their families and friends. We miss them. We are grieving. Their lives mattered. They deserved better from a system that was supposed to protect and heal them. It’s time to demand change. My dad and uncle no longer have a voice. I will use mine to speak for them.
Look at the faces of Jerry Cavanaugh and Jim Conway. They mattered and they deserved better.