KEARNEY — Residents at Oak Pointe Assisted Living and Memory Care received their first of two rounds of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 6. Employees at the facility were taking Christmas decorations down at the time, but for many residents, the vaccine was their last gift of the holiday season.
Omer Gourneau, a retired welder, had a matter-of-fact take on his getting the vaccine.
“People have been dying from this,” he said. “I want to get rid of it.”
While the facility has allowed 30-minute visits with family members, Gourneau misses the chance to hold a hand. Like other assisted living facilities with vulnerable populations of residents, Oak Pointe had cracked down for safety from the virus’ spread by halting visitors and residents’ ability to leave the facility. Residents say staying physically distant has been difficult.
Gourneau also misses some of the freedoms he had before quarantine such as shopping for himself.
“I miss driving my car,” he said. “I miss having long conversations with my daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I miss hugs.”
For Dale and Delores Lockridge, the couple has relied on their son who lives in Kearney to supplement their getting necessities and medicines.
“They helped us get through,” Dale said. “We have our own car and try to take care of some of those needs.”
For Delores, vaccines are part of her routine. Dale, who takes only one prescription and doesn’t normally get a flu shot, called the COVID-19 vaccine “a benefit for everyone.”
The couple has three sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the metropolitan area.
“We had them come to make window visits,” Dale said. “It’s hard not to be able to have closer contact. It’s good that we can at least see them.”
The couple typically enjoys the outings provided by Oak Pointe. Normally, they can hop on a bus and take advantage of sightseeing such as the Plaza’s holiday lights or visiting area museums, but those outings were put on hold due to the pandemic.
With vaccines, the couple hopes it means the ability to eventually get back out and be active.
“When this all started in mid-March, we stayed in our apartment,” Dale said. “The staff here brought us our meals. Everything was quiet and distant. I miss going to Olive Garden for meals. I miss the monthly trips that a group of us made to restaurants.”
The Lockridges believe because they have been married almost 66 years, isolating together was easier.
“Most of us enjoy getting out of here, but when you get locked up, it’s hard on your health,” Dale explained. “It affects the mind and the body. It’s that whole well-being.”
In many ways, Jan. 6, which marked Epiphany on the religious calendar, was an epiphany, which is defined as “an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking or an illuminating discovery, realization or disclosure.”
“Taking the vaccine is the chance to start,” said Dale, a retired soil surveyor who worked in Iowa most of his career. “We have to begin somewhere to make it better. Even sharing meals in the dining room is something we all miss. There are other residents that we sit with and they become family. For several months, we only saw Oak Pointe employees.”
“I am happy to get this. It’s the best we can do right now,” Delores said.