At 104 years old, Dolores Rusilowski believed there was no better place to receive her COVID-19 vaccine than in her living room.
Sitting in her floral wingback chair, beside photos of family and Hummel figurines, she leaned forward with a smile as nurse care manager Karen Krummel prepared the injection.
“Are you ready?” Krummel asked.
“Sure,” Dolores said.
Within moments, she received her shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“I felt it just a little bit,” she said.
‘Excited to offer this’
Dolores is one of 100 patients who received vaccines in their home this week through a partnership between Spectrum Health and the Kent County Health Department.
The vaccines were delivered to patients of Spectrum Health’s home-based primary care program, which provides services for patients who have difficulty accessing care through a traditional office setting.
“We are really excited to be able to offer this,” said Stephanie Westhouse, practice supervisor for home-based primary care and geriatrics for Spectrum Health Medical Group.
Because of age or chronic medical conditions, many of the patients are at higher risk of complications if they became ill with COVID-19, she said. But mobility issues make it difficult for many to get to a community vaccine clinic.
“Some of our patients have caregivers or family members who are able to help them get out to a community clinic,” Westhouse said. “But there are many patients who are not able to do that.”
The health department provided the vaccine doses. With the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the patients need to receive only one dose.
Wake up ‘happy’
This is not the first pandemic Dolores has endured. She was 2 years old when the 1918 influenza pandemic struck.
She also lived through the polio epidemic and remembers when the polio vaccine became available in 1955. And her century-plus lifespan included two world wars and the Great Depression.
But Dolores focuses on the present.
“Life goes on, and you just wake up in the morning happy to see the sun and the light and you thank the Lord for that,” she said.
Now she lives in the Grand Rapids house she and her husband, Tony, built in 1941, where they raised their daughters, Mary Frances and Jayne.
Jayne lives with her mom, and “she takes real good care of me,” Dolores said. “I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Because getting to a vaccine clinic would be difficult, she appreciated the opportunity to receive the injection at home.
Dolores looks forward to the day she can invite people to their home without worries about the COVID-19 virus.
“Enjoy life while you can,” she said. “You never know what the world will bring.”
‘A high-risk patient’
Dale DeVries also welcomed the news he could receive his vaccine at home.
“I have been housebound for about a year,” he said. “I’m a high-risk patient, so I am assuming if I get hammered with the virus, it’s not going to be good.”
Coping with congestive heart failure, cancer, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, he received hospice care for six months last year.
By November, his health improved to the point where he ended hospice services.
With physical therapy, he is growing stronger. But still, a trip to a vaccine clinic would be difficult to navigate.
Dale, 75, and his wife, Janice, were discussing how he could get a vaccine, when they learned a nurse could provide it through the home care program.
As nurse care manager Suzi Ykema prepared his injection, Dale pushed up the sleeve of his T-shirt.
“I am so excited to get the shot,” he said. “I will feel a lot better to have some protection.”