September 30, 2022
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For the past year our community has been struggling through a most difficult crisis. Dealing with this pandemic has dominated much of our energy, time, attention, and emotions. Many of us would love to just erase this whole experience. 

Our Senior Center here in Muleshoe was greatly affected by the pandemic. We had to close our doors but we didn’t have to close our minds. After only a few days of being closed, we came up with an idea to serve our meals through the back door and offer home delivery for those who couldn’t drive themselves.

We take pride in saying we averaged over 100 meals per day for those who needed them. 

But then came November and we had to face even more challenging issues. The unexpected happened. Our Board President, Royce Turner, was diagnosed with Covid. They very next day I was diagnosed with the same. Soon, every employee at our center with the exception of two, were also diagnosed. Our only option was to close our doors once again. 

We all struggled through the illnesses and hospitalizations. Some of our seniors were not so fortunate. We lost some of them to nursing home care and others succumbed to the pandemic. In addition, Covid-19 affected us socially, physically, and financially. We knew we had to make the most of the best and the least of the worst!

Before we could re-open, we realized that we had to make vaccinations available to every older person in our community.

Three courageous men got together to do this. Their focus was to make sure that everyone who wanted a vaccine got one, with those most at risk receiving the highest priority. Those three men were Dennis Fleenor, Administrator of Muleshoe Area Medical Center; Dr. Bruce Purdy, owner of Muleshoe Area Family Clinic; and Royce Turner, Board President of the Bailey County Senior Center. These three men of courage made a majority by encouraging others to take the vaccination. 

Deciding whether to get vaccinated is a choice each person must make for themselves. We recognized that but we encouraged everyone to consider that it is a decision that affects society, as well as an individual’s. Vaccinating those individuals most likely to wind up in a facility alleviates burdens on our hospitals, clinics, and health care systems.  

We take pride in announcing that Baily County Vaccinated a total of 5,600 individuals. The last report we received showed 82% of all Bailey County citizen’s, 65 and over in age, have received their shots.  

Bailey County was also deemed a hub for distribution to other counties and states. Some 25,000 vaccines were distributed to this effort.  

These figures come only from Muleshoe Area Medical Center. Other location participating in giving the vaccines were: Muleshoe Family Medical Clinic, K&K Pharmacy, and United Pharmacy. We thank all of those individuals but a thank you also goes out to Bailey County EMTs, Bailey County Sheriffs Department, and Muleshoe Police Department for all of their help in making it happen.  

I can’t tell you how the Covid affects others but I can tell you how it affected me. I woke up one morning unable to breathe with what felt like an “elephant sitting on my chest”. I thought I was having a heart attack and immediately called 911. The EMTs arrived and rushed me to the local hospital. It was at a time when the hospitals were full and overloaded with patients because of the pandemic.  

The local hospital immediately ran some tests and discovered I had three blood clots in my lungs. They told me they needed to send me to a larger hospital that was more equipped to handle such a serious diagnosis. They also told me the staff was already calling in our area and even the state to get me into another hospital. They reported back that none would take me.

They then started calling nation-wide. After a whole day of calling, there still was no hospital for me. The reason? They were either already overloaded with their local patients or they felt it was too risky to transport me.  

After approximately 12 hours of waiting in our local hospital, University Medical in Lubbock called to say they finally had an opening for me. The same EMTS that took me earlier to our local hospital were now back and rushed me to Lubbock.  

Upon arrival, I was immediately placed in the Intensive Care Unit. I stayed there for four days. In addition to the three blood clots in my lungs, I was told I had experienced a light stroke. After the 4 days in ICU, I was put in the Covid Unit and was moved in about a week to the Main hospital after finally testing negative for the virus. My next move was to the “tents” that the military had put up on the hospital grounds because the hospitals were so full. I was in University Medical Center for almost a month.  

From the hospital I was placed in physical therapy and rehab. I literally had to learn to walk again. The “brain-fog” that was talked about so often, affected me greatly. I had some wonderful therapists who worked with me daily. After about a month in rehab I was allowed to go home, but only on a home health program that provided skilled nurses for my damaged lungs and continued physical and mental therapy. That home health program lasted about three-and-a-half months before I was released.  

The worst part of the whole situation was that I went through it all alone. No one was allowed to visit me. My closest of family was denied access to me. It was just me with the doctors, nurses, therapists, and God! There was no doubt in my mind who it was that pulled me thought. I now thank God every day for giving me life.  

I was fortunate to be able to go back to the center when we reopened in March. I found out real quick that I couldn’t handle the physical job of Director as I had before. I gave up this position but am still working at the center part-time writing grants and articles like the one you are reading now. 

Summer is almost here and I feel we have moved past the worst moments. This dreaded pandemic was the crucible of our lives for most of the past year. We feel it’s time to move ahead and make life better for all of us.  

We felt the best way to do this was an act of individuals putting this pandemic to rest. We decided to sponsor a “mask burning” for anyone who had received their vaccination and wanted to participate. Our hope was that by doing so, those impacted could put 2020 behind them and get back to work on making things the way they were before.  

We can only hope that burning these masks will make our lives a little better. At least it is the first step to recovery and to moving forward from the deep crises we have been mired in for so long.  

Yes, we know there will be those who will scoff at what we are trying to do. Some will even say that burning the masks was downright silly. But for all of our fears and set-backs due to the coronavirus, many of us couldn’t wait to see those masks turned to ashes.  

Our hope is that these ashes will help us start to overcome our painful memories and find some relief. Our hope is that these ashes will represent freedom—not just from the masks and the virus, but from the loneliness and isolation, the painful memories, and the financial strain that this pandemic has brought. Finally, our hope is that these ashes represent bringing back our one-on-one time with our family and friends—but most important with our God!  

Carolyn Johnson

Muleshoe Senior Center

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