West Plains Man Protests Separation from Wife due to COVID-19 Policy
Wed, 06/24/2020 - 11:23am admin
Ann J. Hines, PhD
A West Plains man was a lone protestor walking the West Plains square recently. He wore a sign that read, "Open Nursing Homes," on the front, and "I want to hug my wife," on the back. One local resident took notice. Toyah Murray stopped and inquired about his protest. "I asked if I could take his picture to get him some prayer warriors. I had no idea it would do what it did." Her Facebook post garnered 29,000 reactions and was shared over 66,000 times. "This man's name is Jim Thompson. He hasn't hugged his wife in 88 days," she wrote in the post.
Jimmy Thompson and his wife, Aggie, had never been separated except during his time in the service. Battling multiple sclerosis and depression, she resided in one of West Vue's Green House Homes: small, 10-bed facilities with full nursing care. "The Green Houses are set up to be more home-like, preparing meals together, eating at a family table," explained Jalynn Meidell, President and CEO of West Vue. "Jimmy was integral to that home because he was there daily, helping to prepare meals, eating at least two meals a day with his wife and the other residents. He considers them all his family." But when the governor announced COVID-19 restrictions in March, he was unable to visit any longer. He still came and sat outside her window. "I watched Aggie go downhill every day. We wanted to be able to hold each other like we did all our lives. Whenever I had to leave, she would start crying. They gave her more medication for her depression, but then she wasn't showing much emotion at all. She just wasn't my Aggie anymore."
Although Missouri's phase one to reopen the state ended June 15, DHSS has not opened nursing homes. "These policies were designed for larger facilities, and I want them to take into consideration the fact that her facility housed only nine people. I would go visit her and then go straight home. I wasn't exposed to anyone. But the workers come and go and you don't know where they've been. Why couldn't visitors wear a mask, have their temperature taken, and have a special room for visiting that could be cleaned before and after? At least our loved ones wouldn't feel abandoned."
Thompson said he tried to get an antibody test, but was told he couldn't have one, even if he paid out of pocket. He also said he and Aggie were not concerned about contracting the virus. "There's got to be a balance between safety and quality of life. Aggie and I felt we might as well just die of the virus anyway if we couldn't be together."
Two weeks ago, Mrs. Thompson's health took a decided turn for the worse, and due to different policies pertaining to end-of-life, Thompson was finally able to hug his wife. Their two children were also able to say goodbye. She passed away on June 17. She and Jimmy would have been married 55 years as of this November.
Murray shared in the sorrow, "Please pray for him and their family. Call your representatives. Hopelessness slowly eats away the will to live and is killing our elders in these homes just as surely as the virus. The mental abuses needs to stop."
Thompson stated, "This has been very hard on all these people. It's not that the workers in the nursing home don't realize it-- they can walk down the halls and see the people crying, but they can't do anything. I'm not giving up. Rep. David Evans made sure my concerns reached Governor Parsons and Dr. Williams at the DHSS." Meidell said, "We share the same goal as everybody else: to be safe and to reunite the residents with their loved ones under the right circumstances."
Murray summed it up, "People matter. Personal touch matters. Mental well-being matters. Love matters."