Long-time Bulletin reader Shayne Sprague shares his thoughts and feelings, with a father in a long-term care facility, suffering from both Alzheimer’s and COVID-19:

Sprague begins with by citing an article in the Bulletin, published at 8 p.m. Oct. 9 in the online edition.)

 

“Elsewhere, at least one of North Platte’s long-term care homes has reportedly had several cases in recent days…. Spokespersons from the health district and North Platte care homes did not reply Friday to requests for information.”

As the article states, there was a lack of response for information. So allow me, if you will, to respond.

(Editor’s note: Centennial Park Retirement Village issued a press release with real numbers – 4 deaths, 37 positive residents and 8 positive staff — on Oct. 6, but did not send it to the Bulletin. On Oct. 9, we contacted the community health command spokesperson for information. He did not respond.)

 

First, I’d like to thank the many kind and wonderful staff members at Centennial that truly care about their patients and put themselves at risk doing their job. This is in no way an attack on those types of individuals… you know who you are, and so do I.

With that being said, the issue I have is with the guidelines, both by Centennial, and WCDHC. As well as the Director of Centennial stating to me that she would honor my request (as my parents’ guardian) not to test them for COVID-19. She told me specifically that their names would be removed from the list to be tested.

I can’t tell you how many times, since then, they have indeed, obviously, been tested.

There was no attempt to get my approval, or no notification of the fact that I didn’t have the right to make that request, or that maybe, it was out of her hands to honor my request. Either way, she lied to me, and made no attempt to explain why my request wasn’t honored. This is the type of non-transparency and dishonesty that burns me up. It’s just plain wrong, underhanded, and unprofessional.

Centennial does, in fact, send me occasional letters and updates because both of my parents are there, and I am their guardian. The letter I am about to share was dated Oct. 6. I received it, Oct. 9. I was already aware of the gravity of the situation and the large number of cases there (they’ve increased since) by early Monday morning, Oct. 5. And that awareness did not come from the media, WCDHD, or Centennial.

So, they did inform me in a fairly timely manner via mail, how serious the outbreak was. And to their credit, they called me on Friday, Oct. 2 and informed me that Dad tested negative, and that they were waiting on the results of another three-day test. They called me back on Sunday, Oct. 4 to inform me that Dad’s second test was positive.

They did their part on informing me of the situation. However, I found out how grave the situation was from other sources before they informed me, or the press. I knew how high the numbers were before the vague information ever hit the press.

I take great umbrage to the fact, that we, as a community, are expected to follow certain guidelines, and that the information we are given is back and forth on what we should or shouldn’t be doing. The numbers here, and elsewhere are questionable at best, because there have also been numerous occasions of evidence provided that indicate the numbers are either inflated, manipulated, or withheld altogether.

The WCDHD seems to have gotten more vague as time has gone on.

Look back at their press releases, I notice the information given dwindles over time from the beginning until now. All while the numbers are growing? Trying to prevent the spread, but giving less info, and seeking people to come forward if you were at a location that you may have risked exposure.

Information is a two-way street. You want some, give some… honest information. Either way, you will get none from me, Gestapo.

From the beginning, I’ve not denied that the virus is real, and is a threat to the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

Also, from the beginning, my gut instincts, and the obvious confutation of this whole, sudden “pandemic” told me that this is about way more than just a virus that is basically no worse than the flu.

If that’s not the case, then why the dishonesty, non-transparency, and ever-changing information being put forth.

Here is the letter I received dated Oct. 6…

 

Dear Residents and Families,

We are deeply saddened to share that, since our Oct. 4 update, three more of our dear residents have passed away from complications due to COVID-19. Our hearts go out to their families and friends.

To keep you fully informed, here is the current COVID-19 status after completing the latest community-wide COVID-19 testing:

  • To date, 37 total residents have tested positive • 8 are asymptomatic • 4 have passed away • 8 team members have tested positive

I fully understand your concern for the health and safety of your loved one; however, due to state and federal privacy laws and regulations, we are unable to share information about specific residents or team members. We request that everyone please refrain from asking our team members or me for additional details.

As I outlined in my Oct. 4 update, as directed by CDC and our Five Star protocols:

* We will test all residents and team members every seven days until we have cleared 14 days with no positive results.

* Any resident testing positive will be quarantined and monitored regularly. If changes are noted, we will contact the resident’s physician and family for instruction.

* Based on updated CDC guidelines, team members testing positive and who are asymptomatic may return to work in 10 days.

* We have completed a deep cleaning by Servpro.

Thank you for your ongoing support during such an unprecedented and challenging time. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. We will continue to update you regarding the status of our community.

Respectfully, Julie Skala Executive Director

 

Ironically, as I was creating this post, my wife walked in with today’s mail. There was another letter from Centennial dated Oct. 9. It reads as follows…

 

Dear Residents and Families,

In an ongoing effort to keep you fully informed about COVID-19 in our community, here is the current status based on the latest rounds of testing:

* 4 additional residents tested positive, for a total of 41 positive residents to date

* 6 additional team members tested positive, for a total of 18 to date

* 1 additional resident has passed away, for a total of five

We are saddened by the passing of another dear resident, and our hearts go out to their family and friends during this difficult time.

We expect 7 of 9 residents to return to the community from the hospital next week when approved to do so by our medical director. And 3 of our team members will return to work by Monday.

Next steps, as directed by CDC and our Five Star protocols:

* Healthcare residents previously negative for COVID-19 were tested yesterday, Oct. 8, and will be tested again on Monday if not symptomatic.

* We will test all assisted living residents again on Monday, Oct. 12, and all team members on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

* All residents testing positive will be quarantined and monitored regularly. If changes are noted, we will contact the resident’s physician and family for instruction.

* Based on updated CDC guidelines, team members testing positive and who are asymptomatic may return to work in 10 days.

* A deep clean by Servpro was completed earlier this week.

We continue following all protocols put in place early in the pandemic and which we consistently update based on revised guidelines issued by the CDC, state and local regulatory agencies and Five Star.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. We will continue to update you regarding the status of our community. Thank you for your support during this challenging time.

Respectfully, Julie Skala, Executive Director

 

So there, you go. Since the information we all have a right to know isn’t presented to the media to present to us, you are now better informed.

I agree, we have no right to know any names of who is infected, be it residents, or staff.

But we do, as a community, have a right to know what is going on in our community… after all it affects us all.

To claim that releasing this information might cause fear and panic among the community is an extremely egregious reason to not put forth the complete and unvarnished truth.

This whole “pandemic” has been nothing more than just that. A campaign to cause fear, panic, and division.

So why not give it to us straight and stop the BS games.

My reasons for sharing this are both personal, and a desire for the truth to be told.

It is also because of the heavy handed, over-reaching restrictions that we are enduring, and to point out the ridiculousness of it all. It is causing irreparable damage to scores of people, and our freedoms to live, and die, freely.

When my best friend’s dad died of cancer several years ago, he called me to be by his side as he faced his father’s death. They were literally bringing him home from the hospital in an ambulance to die. His wish was to die at home, and they honored that wish.

I got to the house before any of the family except my best friend. Eventually, the rest of the family arrived.

Every family member, and myself, went into the bedroom alone to say our goodbyes. The dying man was on the literal edge of death and was incoherent.

I don’t know if he could hear my words or not. Either way, I wanted to say them, and believe that he could hear them.

I told him that I loved him, and thanked him for being such a good friend for so many years, among other things. My last words to him were that I promised him I would look after his wife for him, and help her in any way I could (which I tried my best to do until the day she died.) Then I kissed him on the forehead and exited the room.

Right after that the entire family, and myself, went back in and stood at his bedside, and he passed away very quickly.

It was hard to watch him die and his family mourn. But the fact that we were all there by his side, and his suffering was over offered some extent of solace to the situation.

Also, ironically, while writing this post, I’ve had two calls from a very, very, kind nurse at Centennial in regard to my dad’s condition.

My dad has Alzheimer’s and had already declined severely before he got COVID-19. Alzheimer’s is a cruel and harsh disease that will eventually take your life. However, it can take a long time before death comes, and the afflicted person and their family suffer a great deal in the interim.

When Dad was diagnosed with COVID-19, I immediately thought “I hope it takes him, and takes him quickly”; reason being the aforementioned effects of Alzheimer’s, and the fact that he has zero quality of life. He can’t see me. He can’t see his wife, who is living under the same roof he. That is killing my mom, by the way.

The first call I got today was to inform me that Dad’s health is rapidly declining.

The nurse informed me that he was having throat aspirations, which some people call a “death rattle.” She said she didn’t know if she’d call it a death rattle at this point yet, or not.

She said they were giving him drops of medication in his mouth to help with the pain caused by the aspirations. He is also on oxygen.

I asked her if they stopped the drops and the oxygen if he would die sooner.

She explained that both were more to keep him comfortable rather than alive.

I don’t want him to suffer any more than necessary, but at the same time, I want his suffering to end quickly. It’s a dreadful position for me, and him, to be in for sure.

She mentioned morphine, and I asked if he was on it. She said he wasn’t, but she would call the doctor and see if she could get some.

I asked her if I could see him. Not that seeing him in that condition would be easy, but rather so I could talk to him and kiss him on the forehead. And promise him to take care of his wife, just like I was able to do with my dying friend.

I was told that I could not see him. I have no ill feelings towards this very kind nurse who said no. She’s doing her job to the best of her ability.

The second phone call I got just a few moments ago, was from that same kind nurse that told me she would try to get my dad on morphine.

And bless her heart, she did. I cannot thank this woman enough for her kindness and professionalism during this difficult time. I hope she sees this and knows that I mean this with all the heartfelt sincerity I can muster. Same goes for the other people that work there and truly care about their patients and their families.

The nurse said he may pass on in a day or two, or he might come around. But she said the signs were there that he will likely die.

He won’t eat or drink and is not responsive.

So, here I sit, at my keyboard, wondering how many minutes, hours, or days before I get “the call”.

Being my parents’ guardian and knowing their time here on earth is drawing near, I thought I’ve had plenty of time to prepare myself for their passing.

Knowing where they are going helps a lot.

But I never dreamed that I would not be able to be by their side if circumstances permitted me to do so.

People die unexpectedly, and in accidents, and in those cases, sadly, family members don’t get to say their final goodbyes, or give their final hug and kiss to their dead family member or friend.

Under normal circumstances, this would be one of those times that myself, and other family members would have the opportunity to say our final words to my dad. Under normal circumstances, we’d be able to hug and kiss him one last time.

But these, obviously, are not normal circumstances.

I find that to be tragic because it does not have to be this way.

I couldn’t even focus at work last night and had to leave early. And now, I wait.

I’m getting what I wanted, eventually, and that is for my dad’s suffering to end. I still want that, and I know for a fact that’s what he’d want as well. My parents and I have discussed their desires in the event we would end up in a do not resuscitate scenario.

But we didn’t discuss what to do if we were unable to see and comfort our dying loved one. Why? Because that is not normal!

My prayers go out to all affected by COVID-19 at any level. Especially those that have been in, or may find themselves, in my situation.

It ain’t right people. Something is very, very, wrong with this. Think about it. God Bless.

 

Shayne’s father passed away shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday morning, Oct. 11. — Editor.