Some Kindhearted clients receive vaccinations
TINA L. SCOTT
Last Tuesday, Jan. 19, some clients of Kindhearted Home Care LLC on S. Mill St. in Merrill received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. “We had the opportunity for our staff and clients at our Adult Social Center to receive a COVID-19 vaccination,” said Diane Goetsch, owner of Kindhearted. “We are one of the first entities outside of the hospitals and nursing homes to be vaccinated, because we are licensed under the Bureau of Assisted Living [through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)],” Goetsch explained.
Staff were initially eligible to receive the vaccine because they are frontline care workers, and most of the Kindhearted staff did get vaccinated, through “multiple different entities within our greater north central community,” Goetsch confirmed.
In terms of clients, however, the population deemed at greatest risk is eligible to receive the vaccine first, according to a phased-in approach for vaccination. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is following the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to follow these phases, and so is the Wisconsin DHS. The phases were put into place because there is not yet enough of the vaccine available for everyone who may want to be vaccinated to receive it.
The clients of Kindhearted’s Adult Social Center include individuals who are physically and/or intellectually disabled, emotionally challenged or mentally ill, suffered traumatic brain injury, have irreversible dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and/or are frail or socially isolated adults living alone or with a caregiver. Many of these clients were eligible for the vaccination under phase 1.
Two such clients who received the first of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccination last Tuesday were Annie Schellenberger and Michael Knight. They, and their mothers, were excited for the opportunity.
Annie, the 31-year-old daughter of Angela and Gary Schellenberger, is the youngest of five children. Her mother, Angela, explained that Annie is at higher risk of complications if she were to get COVID. “She has two holes in her heart and has Down Syndrome, so her immune system is way down,” Angela said. “I do not want her to get sick from the COVID. I had gotten it. I didn’t have it as bad as most people do. I don’t want to risk her getting sick and dying.”
Angela explained that she herself works for Aspirus at the Hospice House, so she received the vaccine at the beginning of January as a frontline care worker. After being vaccinated, she said she “felt kind of yucky for a day or two, just kind of achy” but otherwise suffered no side effects of the vaccination, so she wasn’t nervous about having Annie vaccinated. “I’m a positive person. I’m 100 percent that this is going to help everybody,” Angela said.
Michael Knight, is the 31-year-old son of Kathy and James Johnson. The family formerly lived in Antioch, Illinois, but moved to Merrill in 2017. Kindhearted Home Care was a huge part of the family’s reason for moving to Merrill, Kathy said. Her family started visiting Merrill in 2014 and Michael attended the Adult Social Center sporadically while they looked at homes and explored the area. “Mike was thrilled when he walked in the door,” Kathy said. And he’s been excited to come there ever since. Michael is a bubbly extrovert who thrives in the social center’s environment.
That excitement was evident even as Michael received his shot on Tuesday. And Kathy said she didn’t have any reservations about him getting the vaccine. “He has had three heart surgeries and has Down Syndrome and is prone to upper respiratory issues,” she said.
“We don’t do vaccinations, as a rule,” Kathy added. “The only vaccinations he’s even had are the ones he needed for school and the H1N1, but this is something you don’t want to fool around with, so we wanted to have him vaccinated. And ourselves, when it’s available,” she said. The risk of what would happen to Michael if he contracted COVID seemed too great to take a chance. “I trust in what I’m hearing and all the scientists and doctors,” Kathy said.
“And,” she added, “sometimes you just have to go on faith.”
Staff and clients who were vaccinated last Tuesday will receive a second dose of the vaccine to complete the vaccination process on Feb. 9.
Not all Kindhearted clients were immediately eligible for the vaccine. For instance, clients of the Health & Fitness Center (which is open to the general public) and some of their home care clients were not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. However, Goetsch took a very active role in pursuing opportunities and scheduling the Jan. 19 vaccinations. She will certainly advocate for the vaccine to be be made available to all of her other clients who may wish to receive it as soon as that is possible.
Kindhearted Home Care provides supportive home care, an Adult Social Center, a Health & Fitness Center, showering and nail care, and respite services. It is locally owned and operated by Merrill resident, Diane Goetsch, a former medical assistant and business and financial administrator.