Letter: My grandfather was the first person in Portage County to die of Covid-19. Our family wants more transparency.

image of Lavern Ferrell sitting in a truck
Lavern F. “Bob” Ferrell

What is a nursing home? It’s where the hospitals discharge people for rehabilitation. It is where the frail and elderly live their last days with dignity and comfort. It’s where the most vulnerable with dementia rely on the facility to keep them safe. Families must put their full trust in these facilities to take care of their loved ones and protect them.

Nursing homes are navigating a new terrain we have never experienced before this new pandemic of Covid-19 that is tragically taking the lives of our loved ones. This virus is very serious for the elderly population and immuno-compromised patients. We are now seeing it affect healthy younger members of our population, including healthcare workers and physicians.

I want to say a special thank you to the facilities, nurses, aides and staff that care for our families during these scary times with the Covid-19 pandemic. Nursing facilities are not to blame for this virus. But how have we failed those trying to care for our loved ones? We know there are challenges of limited availability of personal protective equipment. Have we failed those healthcare workers working tirelessly to care for others, at risk to their own personal health?

Facilities need to follow Governor Mike DeWine’s orders of reporting, disclosure and notification of families. Transparency during this pandemic means more to the affected families during this time than anything. Keeping data and cases a secret by not disclosing information is not helping the cause. We as the family members and general public have a right to know how many patients in a facility have the virus, and we should be well-informed of the situation.

Acknowledging that there are cases in a facility does not mean they are a bad facility. Being transparent means they recognize the problem and want to work together with other public agencies to do what’s right to minimize the impact and negative health implications of those we entrust them to care for.

Lavern F. “Bob” Ferrell

Here is a glimpse of what Covid-19 meant to our family. We were unable to visit my grandfather, Lavern F. “Bob” Ferrell, because of the visitor restrictions in place at nursing facilities. On March 26, our family was contacted by the Woodlands Health and Rehabilitation Center in Ravenna that my grandfather was admitted to UH Portage Medical Center because of symptoms of possible coronavirus and pneumonia. We learned on March 28 that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

His vitals were rapidly deteriorating, and we were not allowed to go to the hospital to visit him during his last few days of life due to visitation restrictions. We had a family meeting and decided to put him on comfort care, aka hospice.

He died alone, on March 29, from Covid-19. We were never able to say our goodbyes. We couldn’t honor his life with a public funeral because of this virus.

My grandfather was the first death in Portage County attributed to Covid-19. Our family has waited for the Woodlands to start speaking out publicly regarding their issues of Covid-19, but they have not acknowledged any cases and the facility is not listed on the Covid-19 database DeWine posted on the state’s website (which has since been removed). Other obituaries in the Record-Courier have also documented individuals with the cause of death as Covid-19 and place of residence as the Woodlands.

Unfortunately, the lives of my grandfather and all the others lost to Covid-19 can’t be replaced. But they shouldn’t be lost for nothing. There are many other nursing homes in our county and surrounding counties that are reporting their numbers as requested. Why is this facility immune to these regulations?

Jennifer Kennedy, 40, lives in Ravenna.

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