Family worries father won't get life-saving therapy as Lindsay Gardens outbreak worsens: 31 cases
This story was produced by Joshua Yeager for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2020 California Fellowship.
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A novel coronavirus outbreak in a rural Tulare County nursing home continues to worsen, leaving some families to wonder if their loved ones are getting the therapies they need to survive.
In just five days, 34 people — 28 residents and six staff — have tested positive for COVID-19 at Lindsay Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility. The initial outbreak of 11 cases was announced on April 15.
Vietnam veteran Jerry Hogan was admitted to the nursing home last Tuesday — one day before the outbreak was confirmed. The 70-year-old Porterville man came from Sierra View Medial Center with pneumonia, unable to walk or even eat without assistance.
While Jerry hasn't contracted the deadly respiratory virus yet, his family worries it's only a matter of time with confirmed coronavirus patients living just two doors away at the relatively small, 90-bed facility in southeast Tulare County.
Even if Jerry manages to avoid the virus, his family says it could be another kind of death sentence for the veteran. Without physical activity and professional therapy, Jerry's lungs will continue to deteriorate until the pneumonia returns and kills him, his family said.
"It's imperative that he be physically active to strengthen his lungs and survive," Jerry's son Jeremy said. "Is that something you can really do quarantined in your room on lockdown? I'm not sure."
An Air Cavalry sergeant, Jeremy says his father was always chasing action in Vietnam as a door gunner and helicopter crew chief. Now, he fears that the war veteran has unwittingly found himself in the middle of a battle from which there might be no escape.
"It's upsetting for me and my family," Jeremy said. "He was so close to being on the verge of recovery."
Jeremy says he doesn't blame anybody for the outbreak but remains fearful for his father's life. He knew there were risks associated with transferring his father to a nursing home in the middle of the pandemic but says his family had no other choice.
"He could die without the therapy he needs, or he can get the therapy and risk getting this very contagious virus that could kill him," Jeremy said.
Jerry's children say they have been generally happy with how the nursing home is handling the tragic situation; they understand that the management is doing what they can to save lives and limit exposure.
"(Lindsay Gardens officials) are trying to keep us informed, trying to protect the residents," daughter Loraine Franks said. "I understand why they're doing it (keeping residents isolated in their rooms)."
But, Franks says nurses and therapists at Lindsay Gardens could do more to get her father moving — even if it's just getting him out of bed and walking around his room.
"It's putting a virus in front of patient care," Franks said. "It's putting a patient in a corner because they're afraid of going in there and working with him."
Lindsay Gardens did not immediately return a request for comment but officials say the skilled nursing facility promptly reported the suspected presence of the coronavirus to the health department.
The source of the outbreak is unknown, though at least one nursing assistant works at both Lindsay Gardens and Redwood Springs Healthcare Center — a Visalia nursing home suffering one of the deadliest outbreaks in California.
Nursing homes and rehabilitation centers have become ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in the United States due to the age and health conditions of residents, as well as their close proximity to each other.
As of Monday, all Lindsay Gardens residents had been tested, according to the Tulare County Public Health lab. Some two dozen-plus diagnoses are pending results.
Tulare County reported 422 cases and 18 deaths on Monday. Fifty-five people have recovered from the disease.
Joshua Yeager covers water, agriculture, parks and housing for the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @VTD_Joshy. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.
[This story was originally published by Visalia Times Delta.]
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