‘He was in such misery’: Beloved stepbrother dies at Okanogan care facility

TONASKET, Wash. — Nursing homes have been hit hard during this pandemic. Across Washington, more than 9,000 people living in long-term care facilities have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

A nursing home in Okanogan County has already lost 12 people to COVID-19 just within the past two weeks.

“He was in such misery and we so wish that he wasn’t. It was really heartbreaking,” said Debbie Roberts, whose stepbrother died from COVID-19.

Roberts says she was used to hearing stories of nursing homes getting hit hard with COVID-19. She never thought one day she’d be telling her own.

“I’m not sure how it got in, but when it got in, it really got in,” Roberts said.

Debbie’s brother Ken moved into North Valley Hospital’s long term care facility a few years ago. She knew his health was declining, but never did she think it would go this fast.

“My brother had Parkinson’s. I knew that if he got it, it would really be hard on him,” said Roberts.

“You know how vulnerable those residents are, that demographic. The chance of this happening once it’s in your facility is really high,” said John McReynolds, CEO at North Valley Hospital.

It’s hit more than just their residents. So far, 20 employees have tested positive. He believes the virus was most likely spread from a worker that was asymptomatic.

“That’s why the prevention piece is so important and doing whatever you can to keep it out of those facilities,” said McReynolds.

“Our family thinks of it as we’re giving up a year of our life almost,”said Roberts.

A year she says if taken seriously, could give others many more to live.

“It’s a cruel illness. He was in misery the whole time. We don’t want anyone else to have to go through that,” Roberts said.