Virus took her dad away. Mom, now alone, she has it too



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When William Kenny died of COVID-19 in his hospital bed at Easter, Carole Kenny was with him, just as he had spent 65 years of marriage, raising six children and welcoming nine grandchildren.

His children heard a conference call when the 89-year-old William Kenny fan turned off and he ran away.

Carole Kenny, 87, tested positive for the virus just before her husband died. She has been without her family in the hospital and in a care facility ever since, coping with viral delirium and her pain alone.

When she recovers, Carole Kenny will not go to live alone in the house she shared with her husband. Since 80% of the nearly 600 COVID-related deaths in Minnesota have occurred in long-term care facilities, the Kennys saw limited options for their mother. They also didn’t like the possibility that she was cut off from the family indefinitely.

“She has been separated from us for so long,” said Jeanne Kenny. “I can’t stand putting her in a place for the elderly where she can’t go out and we can’t go inside to see her.”

Jeanne Kenny, 57, will take her mother to the Bloomington walk she shares with her mixed breed dog Larry, a few miles south of where she grew up. The choice was easy; The movement will be harder.

Jeanne Kenny and her older sister Marie Kenny wanted to share their parents’ story so that others would not ignore the pandemic.

“It is a big problem,” said Jeanne Kenny. “It is not alone: ​​you get it, you recover and you are 100 percent. There are other results.”

Marie Kenny made sure that her father’s obituary mentioned her cause of death as COVID-19. “It is serious and you need people you love,” he said. “Affects everyone; it’s not just a random older person you don’t know. “

Carole and William Kenny’s partnership began when they met at a dance at the University of Minnesota. William Kenny was studying for his PhD. in Engineering. Carole was working toward a degree in occupational therapy. Two years later, they were married. He went on to work at Control Data for 36 years and they were an active couple long after their children grew up.

Carole Kenny sang in the choir of the Natividad de María Catholic Church. I had weekly meetings with a group of friends. She and her husband enjoyed long-distance bike rides.

The couple organized vacations and birthdays for their children and grandchildren at their home in the heart of downtown Bloomington’s working class.

Until the end, William Kenny was the one to call when something had to be fixed: a clogged fuel line in a lawn mower or a balky car. It was kept up-to-date in scientific journals. He always had an idea to make repairs, said Marie Kenny.

In recent decades, he suffered from muscle weakness finally diagnosed as muscular dystrophy. He used a wheelchair. An assistant came each morning for two hours to get him out of bed and prepare for the day. Carole Kenny took care of the rest. “I would go for a walk. She would make bread. She would take care of the house, “said Jeanne Kenny.

Her children do not know how she was infected with the coronavirus.

Days before she became seriously ill, the family expected William Kenny to say the Easter prayer through an online connection from the hospital when the adult children were isolated in their homes. All had been close to their parents, some have been tested, but none had symptoms of the virus.

Instead of praying with Dad, they said goodbye while they were apart. “You want to help your parents. You want to help your family, but no one can be together, “said Marie Kenny.

Then came the anguish of being estranged from his mother while battling the virus, not knowing how it would end. She was experiencing delirium.

They called to see how he was doing, but the conversation was harsh. When she was transferred to a long-term care facility, Marie Kenny arranged to be nearby to greet her mother when they took her in an ambulance. Mom did not return the greeting.

She then had a tough conversation with her mother’s care providers on April 20. Carole Kenny was not eating. She was not participating in physical therapy.

Marie Kenny said she thought over and over, “I can’t lose both my dad and my mom in the same month” and “If we could just be there with her, I would probably do better.”

She feared that her mother would not be able to go out alone. So she was shocked in a matter of hours when her aunt called after speaking to Carole to tell her that she sounded great.

Carole Kenny was eating and moving her legs for her physical therapist. Later that day, Marie Kenny left behind a pumpkin pie baked by her own 13-year-old daughter. Mom then informed him that she had eaten a piece.

Marie Kenny said she asked if Carole Kenny could be brought downstairs on Mother’s Day so the family could greet her from a distance. She said she was told no, that it was against the policies and guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Then they will wait a week or two, because they want Carole Kenny to receive physical therapy that she would not receive at home.

That will give Jeanne Kenny, an engineer for a medical device company working from home right now, time to prepare. She has converted one of her walker’s three rooms into an office for herself. Another will become a bedroom for his mother.

Jeanne Kenny said the house has narrow doors that will be difficult to navigate with a walker, and that she will have to make adjustments in her bathroom, which has a bathtub but no shower.

“It will be difficult to have her here because we do not know how much she will return,” said Jeanne Kenny.

Carole Kenny used to walk the Bloomington Dog Park every Saturday with Jeanne and Larry. “I don’t know if he can keep doing that,” said her daughter.

Jeanne Kenny is also concerned that she has a full-time job that requires concentration. Social workers warned her that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find professional health care aides to enter the home.

The daughters trust that bringing the mother closer is what everyone needs.

“When you get home and you can see people, you will feel emotionally stronger,” said Marie Kenny.

Her mother lost her husband, but she is not alone, Jeanne Kenny said, adding: “We will always be there and help her.”

Twitter: @rochelleolson

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