Douglas Smith is one of the first American COVID-19 survivors.
A resident at Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, since October 2019, Doug was in the middle of it all when the building became the first nursing facility in the U.S. to experience a coronavirus outbreak in February and March 2020.
Doug was in the dining room when he started feeling sick.
“My body got completely sore within a matter of minutes,” Doug remembered. “I was sweating and had a fever.”
Doug went back to his room.
“As I was sitting in my wheelchair, I just got sicker and sicker,” he said. “I pretty much went to bed and sweated through it, and I managed to get through it OK.”
Doug noticed he wasn’t the only one sick. Other residents he knew, friends he had made there, went to the hospital. Some didn’t come back.
Thankfully, the virus passed through Doug’s system quickly, and he was one of a few lucky survivors to experience energy left over from the antibodies in his system.
In the meantime, Doug and the other residents saw their facility on the news – in newspapers, TV and even national news media.
“I was kind of shocked at how quickly the national media pinpointed Life Care as the epicenter of the whole coronavirus in the whole country, and I don’t think it was done fairly at all,” Doug said. “The employees, the nurses and the aides here at Life Care didn’t deserve that kind of publicity. I didn’t feel that we were being neglected or anything. All of the staff worked very hard to keep us comfortable, especially the kitchen does such a great job with the food here, and the activities staff through even the worst of it had a lot of things going on to keep people’s minds busy.”
There were challenges during the outbreak, with life at the facility changing significantly. It was hard for the residents that family and friends could no longer visit inside. Therapy was also on hold, as were haircuts. New protocols were instated, such as wearing masks and not doing group activities. Every time a resident went to a doctor’s appointment, they then had to go into an isolation unit before they were cleared to go back to their regular room. Doug sees all this as sacrifices they were making for the greater good of stemming the spread of the disease.
Doug considers himself an optimist, and he found many things to be thankful for, even over the last few months.
For one thing, he is thankful for the way technology has kept him in touch with his family. He FaceTimed daily with his daughter and grandson in California.
“I got a big charge out of that,” Doug said.
Another thing that has sustained him through the difficulties has been his connection with God.
“I have a Bible in my room, so I spend as much time as possible reading the Bible,” he added.
Still another blessing has been the sense of camaraderie among the facility family at Life Care Center of Kirkland.
“People have tried very hard to help each other, and I get a lot of strength from that,” Doug said. “It really is a wonderful, helpful environment here to know that you’re always supported.”
Although things are not fully back to the way they used to be before the outbreak, Doug was pleased when the facility was cleared to begin family visits again. In August, he got to see his wife face-to-face for the first time since February, and it was a wonderful reunion!
“To be able to see my wife buys me about a week of happiness and gets rid of my anxiety,” Doug shared. “Seeing friends here and my wife is very important. You just feel good for days.”
Doug counts his blessings, big and small. Among these blessings are being able to visit the facility’s exotic fish aquarium and learning to play the piano one-handed (because of the stroke he had prior to coming to Life Care – he is a former guitar player).
Through the challenges he has been though this year, Doug is very thankful for the team of associates at Life Care Center of Kirkland who have supported him and his fellow residents.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the people who are working here and doing such a good job here,” Doug said. “They really have big hearts. They’ve done right by me.”