Daughter of veteran who died of virus says Soldiers’ Home tragedy was preventable

When Susan Kenney received a name from the Holyoke Medical Heart on Wednesday morning, she felt hopeful.

It was solely about two weeks prior that she did not know whether or not or not her father, a veteran resident on the Soldier’s Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, was even alive. She had seen a information report on March 30 that a number of residents had died on the well being care facility for veterans and was shocked she hadn’t been instructed.

However on Wednesday, there was purpose for optimism. Although her father, 78-year-old Charles Lowell, had examined optimistic for the novel coronavirus, he had been moved from the house to the medical heart for extra care.

MORE: 44 veterans have died at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, 100 test positive for COVID-19

At 9 that morning, Kenney stated, an worker on the medical heart instructed her that Lowell was alert and even able to eat some breakfast. 

However then got here one other name just a little greater than an hour after that. Kenney stated she was instructed that when nurses went again to retrieve his breakfast, they discovered him unresponsive. Her father, who had a Do Not Resuscitate order, had died. 

Lowell, an Air Power veteran who served from 1960 to 1965 in the course of the Vietnam Warfare, is among the many 52 veteran Soldiers’ Home residents who have died. A minimum of 44 of these residents examined optimistic for COVID-19.

Kenney is now among the many households who misplaced family members on the residence and have been scrambling to grasp precisely what went fallacious.

“It may have been prevented. They need to have been testing and screening workers, then they need to have made completely positive after they have been coping with each resident that they have been sporting their masks, they have been sporting their gloves,” Kenney instructed ABC Information in a phone interview.

“It simply should not have occurred. I imply, nearly half of them are lifeless now. It is horrible,” she stated

The Troopers’ Dwelling, a state-run facility, is now the middle of two investigations after the rising variety of deaths and accusations from the workers that administration didn’t correctly shield these inside.

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The U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace for the District of Massachusetts and the Division of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are conducting a joint investigation, whereas Gov. Charlie Baker ordered an unbiased investigation by Lawyer Mark W. Pearlstein.

Workers beforehand instructed ABC Information that the staff was not provided masks whereas check outcomes have been pending for a resident who they stated had displayed signs of the virus. It was solely when that check got here again optimistic that they got masks, based on the workers, who stated they first realized of the outcomes by means of different workers as a result of administration delayed telling the workers.

Although the workers stated the roommates of the veteran who examined optimistic have been taken out of that room, they have been shuffled round to different rooms, which they stated led to overcrowding and attainable additional spreading as a result of the roommates had been uncovered.

Superintendent Bennett Walsh, who was placed on paid administrative go away, has not responded to a number of requests for remark from ABC Information in regards to the allegations. He did launch an announcement to MassLive on April 1 defending his actions, saying he offered common updates to state officers in regards to the variety of residents and workers who have been examined and their outcomes after a resident examined optimistic March 21. He additionally stated that every one relations have been contacted and instructed {that a} resident examined optimistic.

“Our focus then and at all times was on the veterans and their households,” Walsh stated in his assertion.

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The Massachusetts Workplace of Well being and Human Companies have additionally not responded to particular questions, however the workplace has launched info on insurance policies that are actually in place on the residence, together with urging social distancing, monitoring private protecting gear and expedited testing of veteran residents. Extra medical case administration nursing workers and the Nationwide Guard have additionally been positioned within the residence, based on the workplace.

“It is a vital well being scenario for our veterans, and the commonwealth will proceed to make all assets accessible to the management of the Holyoke and Chelsea Troopers’ Houses to include the unfold of the virus,” an Workplace of Well being and Human Companies spokesperson beforehand stated in an announcement.

Kenney stated she felt that not all workers seemed to be taking the virus significantly within the early days.

She stated that she noticed one licensed nursing assistant (CNA) kissing residents in March. One other time, when Kenney was explaining the virus to her father, she stated she heard the CNA joke about COVID-19 whereas standing arm-in-arm with one of many residents.

Reaching the Troopers’ Dwelling additionally was a difficulty, she stated. On the day that Kenney first realized that residents of the house had died, March 30, she stated she had spoken to workers on the residence twice earlier that day however was not instructed about any fatalities.

MORE: Employees say veteran at Soldier’s Home infected others after leadership failures

When she tried to name again later that night, she stated nobody answered.

The subsequent day, when she was speculated to FaceTime her dad, she stated the power by no means known as. Kenney stated she continued to attempt to attain the house to no avail.

“Each time I known as the Troopers’ Dwelling it was simply ringing or I wasn’t getting a solution,” she stated.

By that Wednesday afternoon, she stated she heard from a nurse that instructed her dad was alive, however had been recognized with pneumonia. The nurse was not in a position to inform her if he had been examined for the coronavirus, based on Kenney. 

Two days later, that Friday, she stated she nonetheless had not heard from the power about her dad’s situation and whether or not he had been examined for COVID-19. By that point, the variety of veterans who had died on the residence was 21, based on the Massachusetts Workplace of Well being and Human Companies.

“I did not know if my father was lifeless or alive,” Kenney instructed ABC Information.

MORE: Majority of veterans who died at Massachusetts health care facility had coronavirus

She stated she finally determined that she would drive right down to the house herself. Kenney made positive she can be seen by workers, so she painted 12 phrases on the facet of her automobile: “Disgrace on you, Troopers’ Dwelling. It has been 30 hours with no callback.”

Kenney stated an worker who she didn’t acknowledge got here out after she parked in entrance of the doorway, and was apologetic. From then on, she stated, communication improved barely.

Kenney’s father was moved to the Holyoke Medical Heart on Monday, the place Kenney stated she was instructed he would obtain “supplemental care,” although she stated the nurse on the Troopers’ Dwelling wouldn’t elaborate.

When her dad arrived on the hospital, she stated she and her mom coordinated with the workers to set a time to go to him. They have been offered private protecting gear and allowed to take a seat with Lowell for 30 minutes, based on Kelley.

It might be the final time she noticed her father in individual.

“He held my mom’s hand tight the entire time. I instructed him, you realize, folks had been asking about him and we’re all considering of him and we love him,” Kenney stated, choking again tears. “I do know he mustered all of the power he had so I might hear it loudly, that he loves us all.”

After getting the information her father had died, she stated she rushed over to her mom’s home to be along with her.

“It was simply horrible to go over to my mom’s and discover her in a puddle on the sofa, simply in addition to herself,” Kenney stated.

MORE: Federal investigation opened at Massachusetts veterans home with deadly COVID-19 outbreak

She stated she hopes the investigations into the Troopers’ Dwelling will carry solutions about what went fallacious and a few solace for her household.

She stated additionally hopes her father will probably be remembered not simply as a statistic. 

Lowell was stationed in Dayton, Ohio, throughout his time within the Air Power. He served within the 17th Airborne Missile Upkeep Squadron. 

Kenney stated her dad was an avid flyer after leaving the army. Within the early 1990s, she stated he had even rebuilt a small airplane with pals.

A couple of weeks in the past, Kenney stated, he instructed her that he may nonetheless fly if he needed to.

“I do know he may have. It was a phenomenal day to fly [Wednesday],” she stated. “Perhaps that is why he selected then.”

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ABC Information’ Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

Editor’s be aware: This story has been up to date with a earlier assertion from the Troopers’ Dwelling superintendent and the Massachusetts Workplace of Well being and Human Companies.

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