November 21, 2020

By Anthony Columbatto
Administrator, Village Care Center at John Knox Village

When the pandemic first started, I began journaling so I could capture my experiences in this dark and unprecedented time.

For my first entry back in April, I wrote “I fear it is not a matter of if one of us exposes our residents to the virus, but when. And the cost will be more than I can bear.” Fast forward seven months: we have experienced our outbreak, and the devastation and pain it has caused is incalculable.

Every month that we successfully managed to keep COVID-19 out of the building, we thought we were buying time to stave off an outbreak altogether. We’d tell ourselves, “The vaccine is coming. We have PPE. We have a better understanding of how to treat it.”

In reality, we were going through the denial phase of the Five Stages of Grief.

During the past two or so months, COVID-19 has run rampant within the Village Care Center. Every measure we threw at the virus failed. We tested proactively. We isolated residents early. We wore N-95 masks. We brought in air scrubbers and UV lighting. We had numerous infection control surveyors visit multiple times and cited no deficiencies or concerns. None of it worked. As I sit here writing this, 30 of our precious residents have passed away from COVID-19 complications. That’s 30 families grieving inextricable loss. They were 30 incredible personalities who brought our team enormous joy and purpose over the years. We grieve with and for our families.

Alongside all of this pain and grief, I have been privileged to watch heroes go toe-to-toe with this virus in the attempt to save our residents. Fred Rogers once said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I have witnessed so many helpers who have put their lives and the lives of their families at risk to fight against COVID-19. They are tired. They are grieving. They are heroes.

I also have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of our residents’ families. The immense amount of love and support we have experienced during these difficult times brings me to tears. They have bought us meals; sent encouraging cards and emails; and made phone calls to rally us when we needed it most. I always will remember their patience and grace when we experienced our most defeating moments.

So many people have called to offer support and ask how they can help. Here’s how: Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart. Avoid communal gatherings.

I mentioned earlier, we are tired and we are hurting , but we continue to fight. From the start of the pandemic, nursing homes have always been the canary in the coal mine as to what’s happening in the surrounding community. Help us in our efforts to save our society’s most vulnerable population. The cost of not doing so is more than we can bear.

Located in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, the Village Care Center is the largest skilled nursing center in the region, with a license for 430 beds. Providing long-term care, memory care and rehabilitative care, it is part of the John Knox Village continuum of care. Additional information can be found at www.jkv.org/kansas-city-skilled-nursing/. John Knox Village is a life plan community that provides a full continuum of care and services to its residents and members of the surrounding community, including independent living, assisted living, assisted living memory care, skilled nursing, home health and hospice. For additional information, please visit www.jkv.org.