‘When I left, I knew that I would never see her again,’ woman says after grandmother dies from COVID-19 in Rutledge nursing home

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RUTLEDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — At least seven more residents at Ridgeview Terrace of Life Care have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

On Oct. 29, Jennifer Henderson, the executive director of the long-term care facility, said 91 out of the 96 residents had tested positive, while 35 staff members tested positive and two residents had died.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health’s Long Term Care Facility Data webpage, as of Nov. 5, two more residents tested positive, 13 more staff tested positive and seven more residents had died.

Carrie Boley’s 86-year-old grandmother was one of those who recently died after testing positive for COVID-19.

On Oct. 29, Boley’s grandmother Jonnie Pfoff was doing okay, despite testing positive for COVID-19.

However, that changed on Halloween.

“Her oxygen level had dropped again and her doctor (at Ridgeview) felt like she needed to go to the hospital,” Boley said.

When Boley got an update from doctors at the Morristown hospital, where her grandmother was sent, she said she was initially told her grandmother most likely wasn’t going to make it.

“‘I can’t even see her left lung on an X-ray, um, because it’s so full of fluid,'” Boley said the doctor told her.

Boley had the conversation about what would happen if Pfoff got worse.

“She was DNR, and I didn’t want her resuscitated, I didn’t want her put on any kind of life support, I didn’t want her to have a feeding tube, or anything like that,” Boley said.

Boley called the hospital every day around 10:30 a.m. for an update.

She said the very next day after her grandmother arrived at the hospital, she was doing much better.

Although, every day after that was hit or miss.

Hospital staff asked if Boley would like to visit her grandmother, but she couldn’t because she had also recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Boley’s grandmother was at the hospital for nine days.

She was told her grandmother finished her COVID-19 treatment, and was doing well enough to go back to Ridgeview Terrace.

Boley still had not seen her grandmother at this point, but then she got another call on Wednesday from the nursing home staff.

“Wednesday morning, they called me and told me that she had made a significant decline and wanted to know if I wanted to come see her,” Boley said.

Boley left work early so she could go to the nursing home.

She said they took her and her husband through a back entrance and dressed them up head to toe in personal protective equipment, or PPE.

“When I walked in the room, I knew. I knew she was in the dying process. I could tell. They had her on 5 liters of oxygen and she was struggling to breathe,” Boley said.

Boley said she knew she had to say goodbye to her grandmother then.

So she told her she loved her and told her that she and her husband would be okay.

“I didn’t want to leave. I struggled, you know, between leaving and staying and I did finally leave. But I knew, honestly, when I left, I knew that I would never see her again,” Boley said.

Just a few hours later, Boley’s grandmother passed away.

Pfoff had dementia, diabetes and was partially blind.

Boley knew her grandmother was in a better place with her husband and with all the people she loved.

“I know that she can see now and she can walk now and she can breathe now, so that makes me feel better,” Boley said.

Boley learned a lot from her grandmother and was very close with her.

She knew she got her strength and loyalty from Pfoff.

“She was one of the strongest people I ever met in my life. She had overcome a lot and she was one of the most loyal people I had ever known in my life. And I’m going to miss that,” Boley said.

Boley said in the end, she doesn’t believe her grandmother died from COVID-19, but died from complications of COVID-19.

She said she doesn’t blame Ridgeview Terrace of Life Care for her grandmother’s death.

“I don’t blame them for any of this, but I do feel like as a society, we need to figure out how we can improve these long-term care facilities so that something like this doesn’t happen again,” Boley said.

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