I would have been the 47th statistic in the Canterbury Rehabilitation Center and Nursing Facility in Henrico, Virginia if I became a resident as I had planned. COVID-19 and a severe lack of care for these patients killed them. There was one nurse/aide caring for forty people during a shift in the facility. One. The facility is mainly funded by Medicaid patients. Is this a reason for bad care to the elderly or the chronically ill?
I planned on going to a nursing home because I felt I had become a burden to my husband, who became my caregiver and small family which included a 30 year old son. who had a wife with rheumatoid arthritis who could not stand to see me. This was because I could no longer walk. Only short steps in my own home. And she felt that this was her future. I realized my system was compromised well over a year ago when I learned that I had Lymphedema along with other chronic illnesses, including asthma, hypothyroidism, and yes, arthritis. After being told by a surgeon at UVA that my life would have a slow decline, I could see and feel this decline on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. Then the suicidal thoughts began. Why be a burden? I cannot drive. My husband. Does not want me to even attempt it. I cannot walk a quarter of a block. I am lucky I can walk twenty feet. I practically live in an ergonomic chair. I can take care of my dog, get coffee, do dishes, cook dinner , but evenings or when it rains I …. cannot…move…my left side. I have to abandon anything I am doing. If I am cooking my husband dinner I have to call for him to help me, if I am simply standing I am at the risk of falling. It can happen at anytime when my leg numbs out.
I decided I was going to go to Canterbury Nursing Home on Henrico, Virginia, just outside of Richmond and was ready to take a tour of the facility. I let my spouse know about it, along with two other residences I was interested in. I wanted to revise my will. He could keep the my 2011 Mercedes E 350 he bought me for my birthday at Carmax and he needed to watch our hound dog who was my emotional service animal. I would miss my dog most of all.
He was angry with me and argued with me, “If you go in there, realize you will never come out. You will die there. The place will kill you. “
I remember telling him that day after day I am shut in our house while he is at work, and I can finally talk with someone aside from texting on FB or Twitter when gets home. He questioned me, “Who? Others in wheelchairs? Are you sure you want this?”
My husband reminded me of a time just five short years before, when I went under the knife for a revision on a failed back surgery at UVA. I sang to Alzheimers patients in Assisted Living and Nursing Homes. I was also a certified hospice volunteer in these facilities. Singing and music is extremely healing and had always helped boost me body and soul. As of late it had failed me a bit…then more…
My husband, and my son Eugene and later my sister Claudia all went over the many reasons why I should not go. I was not in dire need physically. I was in better condition than most people there. I did not need to be admitted.
I did manage to get out of a lot of physical pain and self + pity by pushing through it. I turned to music again when my old friend and musical partner Banjo Bill Green asked me to start performing with him again. I was nervous, full of water from Lymphedema, housebound with my husband still being a caregiver, still loving me unconditionally pushing a behemoth in a wheelchair and telling me it is just fine with him (what???) This is unconditional love. And it had to take all of the love for me and the love for my family and my friends to keep me staying out of Canterbury Rehabilitation Center and accepting my new normal. If I did go and become a resident there, you would never hear my name, or know what happen to me.
Only that I was Number 47. The 47th Victim of the Corona Virus.
Thank you, spouse. It is good to be alive! I am in the safest place I can be. I am loved.
And I am Home.