Ron and Nancy Williby were in Phoenix when they got the call.
Nancy's mother, Margaret Peck, was being transported to the hospital. She had a temperature of 101 degrees. Due to coronavirus concerns, the 96-year-old was placed in quarantine. None of her family could see her.
After two days in the hospital, Peck was discharged. She was tested for COVID-19, but the results were not yet back. However, as she did not meet the criteria to remain in the hospital, the decision was made to send her back to Carter Place, an assisted living facility in Blair.
“I think it was very bad judgement,” Nancy said. In a letter sent to the Pilot-Tribune, Nancy addressed her concerns. Due to the length of the letter, it is published online at enterprisepub.com.
A few hours after she was discharged, Margaret received a phone call, confirming her diagnosis. She was the first resident of Carter Place to test positive for COVID-19 on March 23. Public health officials determined the virus was linked to a healthcare worker who also tested positive for the illness.
“My daughter called us,” Nancy said. “I called Carter Place and they said yes they had just gotten the call.”
The Willibys immediately packed up and started the long trip back to Blair. After reaching Texas the first night, they received a call at 2:30 a.m. that Ron's mother, Fae Williby, who is also a resident of Carter Place, was taken to the hospital by Blair Rescue.
Family rushed to be by Fae's side, but because Carter Place was under quarantine, no one could see her. She was also tested for COVID-19 and was to be sent back to the assisted living facility.
Instead, Ron and his sister, Cheryl Wood, decided to take her home.
“We had made the determination that the isolation that had to be going on down at Carter Place just wasn't good for Mom,” Ron said. “She seemed to be going down hill with no contact from anybody. She had an inside room so we couldn't even go to a window. We determined that, no, she could not go back there.”
Ron said he felt they had no other options.
“We didn't figure any other facility would accept her with the possibility of her being positive with it,” he said. “We felt the only option was to bring her here to our house and self-quarantine in our basement.”
Officials with Three Rivers Public Health Department let the Willibys know that meant a strict quarantine. Because Fae's test results were not back, the 101-year-old had to be presumed positive.
“That means Ron and Cheryl are downstairs with the masks and gloves and I take their food and they come and get it,” Nancy said. “We can't be together. I haven't really talked to Fae except to see her through the glass from the outside.”
All three have to report their temperature every day to the health department and monitor their own health in addition to taking care of Fae, who is required to wear a mask at all times.
“Every day we sanitize things,” Cheryl said. “This is a major, major situation. It's all we do. That's our life right now.”
The family is now just waiting for the results from Fae's test. The results were supposed to be back within 48 hours. However, the test was mistakenly sent to a different lab so they may not get the results until later this week, Nancy said.
“If we get a diagnosis back and its negative, we'll certainly tell her,” Ron said. “If it's positive, I don't know if we'll say anything about it. She's not exhibiting any symptoms at all. No fever or respiratory distress or anything.”
Ron and Cheryl said Fae is alert though they have noticed a short decline in their mother's health.
“We don't know that that's related to the coronavirus or not,” Ron said. “It could be related to her age. We are waiting to hear the results of the test, which would at least give us some freedom to move around the house.”
Nancy said the family has received a lot of support from the community through texts and phone calls. Margaret has recovered and was moved from the facility to a hospital Saturday.
“She's a strong person and she's overcome this completely,” Nancy said.