Erica and Billy met in high school when they both got their first jobs at the same company. Spending time working
together,a friendship eventually blossomed into love.The high school sweethearts talked about their future together and their plans to get married. Heartbreakingly, the timing wasn’t right for Erica and Billy and they went their separate ways in life.
Erica eventually married and later was admitted to a nursing home along with her husband and mother where she was able to help support her loved ones. Erica resided in a nursing facility for six years. During that time, her mother and husband passed away leaving Erica to live alone in the nursing
home.Billy moved away and later on in life ended up in the hospital due to complications from diabetes. The hospitalization and complications eventually led Billy to move into a nursing home as well. Throughout five years of living in nursing facilities Billy was transferred around to a few different facilities. Unbeknownst to him, the last facility he was transferred to was the same nursing facility where Erica was living.
That is where the high school sweethearts finally reconnected in 2017, years after falling in love when they were young. Their friendship and then eventually their love rekindled. Erica and Billy both said that it was God’s plan for them to finally be together. They adapted happily to their life together in the nursing facility and even started discussing their future and getting married again, until 2020; when the world changed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Suddenly the two were forced apart isolated in their own separate rooms. They were no longer able to have any contact except for phone calls. When Billy contracted the virus, pandemic isolation and loneliness became even worse for them both. Not only that, but the couple watched as three different roommates at the nursing facility also contracted the virus and passed away. The couple was concerned. Thankfully Billy responded well to the treatment options provided to him, and he pulled through the illness.
After two years of isolation, the couple was approached by the nursing facility’s social worker about the Take Me Home transition program. They decided it was time to be together on their own away from the facility.
Both Billy and Erica have said that they enjoyed working with the Take Me Home Transition Coordinator, Autumn Hager, through the process of transitioning to living in the community. Erica said that Autumn was able to help them get set up with furniture and groceries for their new home and even helped them get set up with the doctors they would need. Billy and Erica both said that they are enjoying the independence they feel living on their own, and that they are grateful to TMH for helping to bring them back together again. They say they are “doing real good,” but just speaking with them, anyone could tell they are finally living their “happily ever after”.
In 2005, Jerry began using a wheelchair because of a car accident. In August of 2019 Jerry was hit by a car while he was in his wheelchair. He was taken to the hospital where he found out that during the accident he broke numerous bones in his arm, leg, and shoulder. Four days later Jerry was in surgery and by the end of the month Jerry was placed in a nursing home.
In January of 2020, the social worker at Jerry's nursing facility approached him about the Take Me Home (TMH) Transition program. The social worker connected him with TMH Transition Coordinator, Josh Phillips, who coordinates TMH transitions in the eastern panhandle area of the state. At the time, Jerry did not feel ready for the program, but Josh encouraged him to keep in touch and promised to be there to help him when and if he did feel ready to transition to living in the community.
Jerry was very social in the nursing home, always visiting with his friends in other rooms, chatting with the staff and enjoying visits with his girlfriend. This, of course, soon came to an end when after only a few months in the nursing home, the coronavirus global pandemic sent everything into lockdown. Jerry said that life became very isolated very quickly. COVID-19 protocols kept him confined to his room. He remembers sitting at his door watching staff working out in the hallway, not being able to have much of anything to do to keep him occupied. The most difficult part was that he was no longer allowed to receive visitors, including his girlfriend.
It was during this isolating time that Jerry decided to give Josh a call and began the process of moving back into the community. Jerry reported that he felt that Josh went beyond his expectations in how involved he was in making sure that Jerry had everything he needed to be able to live on his own again. This included things like pots and pans to cook with, towels and bed sheets, and food supplies. In addition to helping him set up his home, Josh also connected Jerry with WV Choice to set up his care for when he transitioned home.
It wasn’t until she was four years old that Christy Miller was finally correctly diagnosed with the neurodevelopmental disorder, Retts Syndrome; although she had been showing symptoms from the time she was nine months old. Thanks to the diligent persistence of her parents, Christy has lived a full and happy 42 years and has many more happy years yet to come despite doctors telling her parents there was little chance she would live through her teen years.
Retts Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that disproportionately affects those who are born female. Like most individuals diagnosed with Retts Syndrome,
Christy appeared to be a happy, healthy, normally developing baby after she was born. Then at about nine months old, her mother, Judy, noticed that she began regressing in some of the skills she had been developing. Although she is non-verbal, Christy was able to get around on her own until October of 2017 when she began to develop dystonia. This made it more difficult for Christy to be able to get around on her own. Her parents needed more help and Christy’s care giver’s hours kept being cut back. All of this caused her parents to make the difficult decision to put Christy in a nursing home to receive care.
Christy’s mother Judy said that Christy was immediately depressed and anxious about being away from home, even though her parents stayed very involved in her life and care at the nursing home, visiting her almost every day to check on her care.
When the coronavirus global pandemic began to shut down access to nursing homes across West Virginia, Christy became even more lonely and depressed in isolation. For ten months her family was unable to visit. Thanks to the kindness of Christy’s nurses at the nursing home, her parents would facetime her as often as they could. However, because of Retts Syndrome, Christy was unable to understand that her parents were on the phone and would become distressed that she could hear their voices but could not find them there with her. Her distress and depression were compounded when, three different times throughout that ten month period, Christy was required to quarantine for 14 days because of possible exposure to the coronavirus. While in quarantine she was in a room completely alone and only saw caregivers who, following proper safety protocols, would enter her room in a full sterile gown and mask outfit. Again, because of Rett’s Syndrome, Christy could not understand the strange outfits or recognize her caregivers and was very afraid of the look of the caregiver’s protective gear.
Christy’s parents finally made the decision to transition Christy home to be with family during the pandemic. They chose to work with the Take Me Home Transition Program to help facilitate Christy’s transition. Due to the coronavirus global pandemic, the entire transition process had to be completed remotely, which provided several difficulties. Christy’s mother said she was thankful for Christy’s transition coordinator, Paula, who helped to guide them through the process. She said that Paula continuously advocated for Christy throughout her transition and was the glue that kept everyone who was necessary to the process connected during a difficult time.
Christy’s mother said that the smile on Christy’s face the day she came home made all of the work put into the transition process worth it. When Christy first got home she still had some anxiety from her experience in isolation, but has since come back out of her shell. Christy is now cracking jokes, smiling, and laughing. She is enjoying attending church and visiting with friends.
“Nothing can replace the love and support a family, or a community can give.” Christy’s mother Judy Foss says, “It can be a scary and difficult process, but it is worth it and I wouldn’t trade having Christy home for anything.”