LOGAN, Ohio – Two months after COVID-19 began spreading throughout Ohio, a team of 20 Ohio National Guard Airmen and Soldiers was activated for two weeks to help care for residents at an assisted living facility overwhelmed by the virus.
After residents and staff experienced symptoms of the coronavirus, Mindy and Chad Bailey, directors of the Carlin House assisted living facility, pushed for testing of everybody there. They learned nearly 65% of the residents and 37% of the staff had contracted COVID-19.
As fears began to rise, many of the staff members chose to self-quarantine, leaving only six nursing staff members on the team.
Rather than displacing residents to alternate facilities, the Baileys chose to shelter in place and reach out to the Ohio National Guard through the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. Within six hours, the call, the Guard dispatched a 20-person team with medical and ancillary staff capabilities.
ONG medics and nurses administered medications, assessed conditions, took vital signs and transferred residents throughout the facility. The ancillary staff supported cleaning, laundry services, delivering meals and assisting trained medical personnel with resident care.
The Ohio National Guard members cordoned off wings of the facility based on which residents tested positive for COVID-19, and ensured there was personal protective equipment (PPE) for each section. The PPE protocol was instrumental in decreasing the spread of the virus.
“They’ve helped me by serving my meals, with personal care, and just being there for me,” said resident Kathy Russell. “They’ve been very good to us. They stepped in and stepped up greatly to be here and to take care of us. They’ve done a great job and I am thankful for them.”
While the work was unique to the Soldiers and Airmen, who typically train to operate in a tactical and combat medicine environment, many of the Guard members were able to draw from their military and civilian experiences to provide professional care for the residents.
Maj. Richard Binks, with the Ohio Army National Guard Medical Detachment, had worked with COVID-19 patients in his civilian job as an intensive care unit nurse and during an April Guard mission caring for inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton.
“I think (my experience there) prepared me for this because I have a better understanding of the proper PPE to use, what precautions and prevention methods to take, the overall understanding of how COVID-19 can present, knowledge of the interventions being done for patients with COVID-19, and knowledge of the treatment plans for COVID-19 positive individuals,” Binks said.
Guard members also helped keep the residents in good spirits.
“I’ve seen their demeanor and I’ve heard the compassion in their voices as they speak to and take care of our residents,” said Chad Bailey. “There’s not enough words to express our gratefulness that they are taking care of our residents how we would, and how they deserve to be taken care of.”
Unfortunately, the Airmen and Soldiers also experienced the deaths of some residents. A services Airman, who was part of the ancillary staff, took the lead in providing mortuary affairs services for those residents.
“When a resident passes, I treat them as if they were my family members,” said Airman 1st Class Chelsea Winteringham, with the 179th Airlift Wing. “It’s tough at first, but then you realize you’re doing it to respect the deceased and their family members.”