COVID-19 vaccine could bring nursing home residents out of isolation

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– Long-term care facility residents are expected to be one of the firsts to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, after healthcare workers on the frontline.

Staff and residents at two nursing homes in East Tennessee couldn’t be more ready. For them, a vaccine means being able to truly enjoy life with loved ones again.

Kelly Lohman, Administrator of BeeHive Homes of Knoxville, said the pandemic has been tough on residents and staff.

“(We) try to keep everybody safe and healthy and my employees safe and healthy, and yet, at the same time, meet all the expectations we need to meet with the state and the county. And it’s just an ever-changing target,” Lohman said.

She said it’s really been the most hardest on the residents because they’ve been so isolated.

“I was thrilled to think that we can get back to think that we can get back to some kind of normal life where we’re not so isolated, and we’re not, you know, ever watching out and be all scared about this COVID,” Lohman said.

Lohman said she’s already talked with her 16 residents about the possibility of the vaccine coming soon. She wanted them to be ready.

“(I’ve) asked them, ‘is this something that you’re interested in? Please talk to your family, please talk to your medical people, and really have an answer because when we get the opportunity, we want to be ready to go,” Lohman said.

Lohman said most of her staff and residents were on board with receiving the vaccine. They know it’s a life changer.

“They said we would be among the first to get it. That’s great,” Bobbie Owens, a resident at BeeHive Homes, said.

Owens, 85, misses seeing her loved ones, and she knows exactly what she wants to do first if the vaccine proves to be successful.

“Go to my son’s house. Seeing my grandchildren, my great grandchildren…I wanna hug them and touch them. Those grandbabies are growing up,” Owens said.

For Earl Lee, 84, the vaccine means staying alive for his wife of 64 years.

“I’ve got a wife in there that I’ve got to help take care of as long as a live and I hope I live long enough that she won’t be left by herself,” Lee said.

Lee was fortunate enough to live at BeeHive with his wife and shared the same room. However, they also couldn’t see their family.

“I’m just hoping this is one of the steps we go through to get well, or not catch anything,” Lee said.

Over at Meadow View Senior Living in Clinton, Executive Director Pam Forgety knows all to well why the vaccine is important for the elderly population.

“My husband, Joe Forgety, at the age of 63, passed away from COVID this week, November 30th,” Forgety said.

Forgety said her facility was doing routine COVID-19 rapid testing when she got tested first a few weeks ago. Her results were positive, so she asked her husband to get a test as well.

Turns out he had COVID-19 as well.

Fortunately, Forgety was the only to test positive at her facility, but unfortunately, she personally had to go through what her residents were dealing with while her husband was in the hospital: he was isolated and she couldn’t be with him.

“I’ve thought about that a lot. That, you know, I’ve been in the position to make those decisions for families to not be able to see their loved ones, for their residents to not be able to go to birthday parties or to family celebrations,” Forgety said.

Forgety knew those decisions were for the safety of her family, and she knew the same at the hospital with her husband was the same.

She said she couldn’t have been more blessed with how well the staff at UT Medical Center treated her husband.

Forgety said she hopes the vaccine will ensure families don’t lose anymore loved ones to the virus. Her husband was well-loved in the community.

Joe Forgety worked in the Anderson County School system for 40 years before he retired in October.

At one point he was the principal of Norris Middle School, but his most recent title was Director of Safety for the district.

Joe Forgety passed away due to COVID-19. He was the former Director of Safety for Anderson County Schools. Forgety is pictured in the middle in white.

In honor of his memory, a scholarship donation fund has been set up to help at-risk students.

Forgety said her husband helped design a program in Anderson County Schools called fast track that helped at-risk students receive one-on-one attention to recover their credits and help them graduate high school.

“To this day, a little more than 300 students have graduated from this program,” Fogerty said.

Now, it’s called the Bridge Academy. The scholarship fund Fogerty created in her husband’s honor would help those students with whatever supplies they need.

To donate, people can go to the educationfoundation.info/donate and choose the Joe Fogerty Memorial Scholarship fund, or send a check payable to Education Foundation, For Joe Forgety Scholarship at 212 North Hicks Street, Clinton, Tennessee 37716.

Funeral services for Joe Forgety will be held Saturday at the Second Baptist Church, in Clinton with COVID-19 guidlines in place. Visitation starts at 2 p.m. and the memorial service starts at 6 p.m.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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