Older people really can survive this COVID’: After battling illness for over a month, Oak Lawn octog

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May 21, 2020

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The family of Cassie King, 80, of Oak Lawn, visit her through a sliding glass door at ManorCare Health Services' Oak Lawn East nursing facility. It's the first time King's family has seen her since she was hospitalized in early April after testing positive for COVID-19. (Courtesy of ManorCare Health Services)(ManorCare Health Services)

When Cassie King saw her family Tuesday for the first time in over a month, food was foremost on her mind.

The 80-year-old great-grandmother, who is convalescing at a skilled nursing facility in Oak Lawn after battling COVID-19, spoke with her relatives through a sliding glass door Tuesday after graduating from the facilitys airborne isolation unit to her own room.

Its likely to be another week or two before King is strong enough to return home, but that hasnt stopped the Oak Lawn resident from dreaming of the feast shes fixing to whip up when she does.

She said, I cant wait to get back home so I can start cooking, said Vivian Moore, Kings daughter. And Im like, we cant wait to get you back home to start cooking.

King, a Mississippi transplant, has already devised a decadent Southern-inspired menu for her triumphant culinary homecoming that has family members salivating.

Her first meal back will feature macaroni and cheese, chicken and dressing, both collard and mustard greens, and caramel cake for dessert.

My moms house has always been the house where everybody comes on a Sunday to eat, said Moore, who, until this week, had not seen either of her parents since they were admitted to Advocate Christ Medical Center in early April after both tested positive for COVID-19.

It was scary, said Moore, who feared the worst for her parents. That was my concern was, oh my goodness, are my parents going to die? Are both of them going to die?

Even though hospital staff continued to offer encouraging reports about their progress, Moore said she lived in fear of the call that one or both of her parents condition had taken a turn for the worse.

It was especially stressful when she couldnt immediately get through to the hospitals overworked nurses and her mind would race as she waited hours for an update on her parents health, Moore said.

Is this the call where theyre going to say they got worse or they didnt make it or they had to be placed on a ventilator? she said. I was always looking for those calls.
Moore said she feels fortunate she never received such a call and that both of her parents eventually recovered.

Her 87-year-old father, Jeremiah King, had it worse than his wife, whose symptoms never progressed beyond general nausea and a mild cough, but was actually discharged before her and already has returned home.

Cassie Kings hospital stay and rehabilitation were extended by an unrelated, but debilitating spinal problem diagnosed after she was hospitalized for COVID-19 that required emergency surgery, her daughter said.

As a result, shes likely to remain at ManorCare Health Services Oak Lawn East location, which specializes in short-term rehabilitation, for a while longer as she builds back up the strength to walk again.

Cassie King, 80, of Oak Lawn, waves to her family through a sliding glass door at ManorCare Health Services' Oak Lawn East nursing facility on May 12, 2020. It's the first time King's family has seen her since she was hospitalized in early April after testing positive for COVID-19.(Courtesy of ManorCare Health Services)

Jeremiah King, who suffered shortness of breath and had to be administered oxygen, but was never placed on a ventilator, was discharged from the hospital April 28 and spent two weeks recuperating at ManorCares Palos Heights East location before returning home Monday.

Moore said she was overjoyed to have her father back home after spending a month apart and felt reassured upon arriving at his place Monday to find him doing what he likes to do most sitting on the couch and watching the news on CNN.

When I saw him doing that, Im like, oh my goodness, hes home, hes feeling OK, she said.

Moore said that upon returning home her father requested a solid home-cooked meal, so shes planning something for this weekend.

Unlike her mother, who has asked that she drop off fried chicken, ribs and Portillos polish sausages at the nursing home, Moore said her father just loves vegetables.

If I cook him a bunch of vegetables, hes happy, she said, running off a list of greens that meet her fathers approval.

The family will hold off on having a larger celebration to mark both Jeremiahs and Cassies recoveries until after her mother is released from the nursing facility, Moore said.

In the meantime, she said she was trying to figure out how best to care for both of her parents once theyre back home.

She said she wanted to share their story of resilience and recovery to offer hope to the thousands of families waging their own battles with COVID-19.

Honestly, when I first heard that both of (my parents) were COVID-positive, it was really scary because I didnt see anything positive coming up out of this virus, said Moore, who recalls how disheartened she felt seeing the daily tallies of deaths on the news. It was just so depressing.

But, she said, With great health care, with caring nurses and with nurturing doctors, older people really can survive this COVID.

In fact, ManorCare is touting Cassie King as the skilled nursing facilitys 1,000 COVID-19 recovery graduate across its nationwide system.

King, who was transferred from Advocate Christ to an isolation unit at the companys Oak Lawn East facility one week ago, is one of approximately 84 COVID-19 patients who have recovered from the virus at one of ManorCares five south suburban skilled nursing facilities, according to company data.

Recovery, as defined by the company, occurs when a patient goes 72 hours without experiencing COVID-19 symptoms following a period of at least 14 days since the onset of those symptoms.

At ManorCare, when a patient reaches that milestone, they are moved from an airborne isolation unit, where employees wear N95 masks, goggles and gowns, to a private room within the general nursing home population.

Written by Zak Koeske zkoeske@tribpub.com

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