‘I know he wouldn’t survive’: Woman fears for dad’s life as COVID spreads at Spokane Veterans Home
SPOKANE, Wash. — COVID-19 is spreading inside the Spokane Veterans Home once again. A worrisome thought for Lacy DeAngelis as her father is living there and has underlying health conditions.
Since July, 32 veterans and 20 staff members have tested positive for COVID.
In recent days, 11 people who live there and 10 workers tested positive. Because of the outbreak that started in July, visitors are not allowed into the Spokane Veterans Home.
“I really miss my dad. I really want to see my dad. I just want to hug him,” DeAngelis said.
A spokesperson with the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs says only people where a family member is in crisis or near the end of life can visit right now.
DeAngelis hasn’t been able to see her father for two months.
“I’m fully vaccinated. I would take a test. I would wear a full hazmat suit if I can just go in and see my dad,” she said. “Whatever they asked of me, I would do it, just to go see my dad.”
Since the outbreak, DeAngelis says she constantly calls the Veterans Home to make sure her father, Leonardo, doesn’t test positive. It’s been coming up negative, and DeAngelis says her dad is vaccinated.
Leonardo is a Vietnam vet. DeAngelis said he was hit with Agent Orange during the war and had some health issues. He ended up in the Spokane Veterans Home because he needed rehabilitating to help him walk.
DeAngelis said he got better right before he was supposed to leave the home. She added that he was going to move in with her but then COVID-19 hit.
“I know he wouldn’t survive another bout of COVID just because it took so much of a toll on him the first time,” she said.
She says Leonardo got sick last May and ended up on a ventilator.
“I was very scared, and I remember the day I walked in and he had to be ventilated and my heart dropped,” she said. “I just started crying. I couldn’t. It was so traumatic seeing my dad like that.”
DeAngelis says she’s afraid that could happen again as more people test positive for COVID in the home. Even though her father is vaccinated, she knows the Delta variant is more contagious and breakthrough cases can happen.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says two people died in the last month after testing positive for COVID. The department can’t say whether or not people die from the virus or from underlying health conditions as it does not get death certificates to know for sure. Many of those who live in veterans’ homes have underlying health conditions and need care, too.
“Some residents diagnosed with COVID-19 were on end-of-life or comfort measures when they passed,” the department added.
DeAngelis says one of those who died was her father’s friend, a veteran named Jack.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world when your elderly father is crying because he lost his friend and someone we cared deeply about as well. I couldn’t be there to hug him or to comfort him,” DeAngelis said.
She doesn’t want her father or other families to have to go through any of that again. But, it may be tough to avoid when the home is experiencing another outbreak. The department says it has not identified a source of how the virus was brought back into the home.
Of the 67 veterans living at the home, 89 percent are vaccinated. Fifty-two percent of staff have received the shot.
“We are in the process of verifying all employee’s status now as some received their vaccine in the community,” the department said.
When DeAngelis found out some workers were not vaccinated while caring for her dad this year, she was not happy.
“It was infuriating to know that there were unvaccinated people working with my dad who had just barely survived COVID last time, to know that he wouldn’t survive it again if he caught it,” she said. “I don’t understand how people can work in health care and not take that into account, especially when you’re working with the most vulnerable population.”
Right now, Leonardo is doing okay. Though visitors can’t come in, DeAngelis says she was able to see him a few days ago when she had to take him to a needed appointment.
“I was able to see him two days ago, finally, for the first time in two months,” she said. “I was able to give him a hug and tell him how much I loved him and tell him how much I’ve missed him.”
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