Lowell, Mass. – Ever since they became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, 79-year-old Mary-Ellen Stewart has tried in vain to book appointments for her and her 80-year-old husband, John Stewart Sr. Yet even if there was availability near the Billerica home they have shared for 55 years of their six-decade long marriage, she worried about the physical and emotional stress of helping transport her electric wheelchair-bound spouse.
“Getting out anywhere is an all-day affair, and we’re exhausted by the end of it. Learning we could get the vaccine in our own home really took the burden off,” said Stewart, who relies on the Billerica Council on Aging van to bring them to local appointments. “Any help I get is very much appreciated, so getting our vaccines today was a wonderful gift. We both feel so blessed.”
Tricia Morneault, who has been a licensed practical nurse with Circle Home in Lowell for 20 years, administered the COVID-19 vaccine to the couple during John Stewart’s regular nursing visit on Tuesday, March 23. It was the first coronavirus vaccine given inside the residence of a home health care patient and caregiver affiliated with Lawrence-based Home Health Foundation, which includes providers Circle Home, Commonwealth Nursing Services, Hallmark Health VNA, Home Health VNA, Home Health VNA of NH, Merrimack Valley Hospice and York Hospital Hospice as part of the Wellforce Health System.
Morneault, who lives in Tewksbury, said the two other homebound patients whom she vaccinated following her visit to the Stewarts were equally as appreciative.
“They were absolutely ecstatic. It’s so difficult for both of them to leave the house that they were concerned they’d never be able to get the vaccine,” said Morneault, noting that one of the patients must be transported by ambulance. “It’s very meaningful for me to give this vaccine because it is literally a lifesaver for some of these people. Their exposure to COVID-19 is lower because they never go out, but they’re still having groceries delivered and other people go into their home. I’m glad to be able to provide another service to keep them safe at home.”
In addition, Morneault said she is eager to share her own positive experience receiving the vaccine as a frontline healthcare worker
“I never questioned receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and I was ready to take it once it was my turn. I believe it’s safe, and even though I’m extremely diligent about wearing the proper PPE, I want to protect my family from possible exposure to the virus,” she said, noting that unlike healthcare workers in a hospital setting, home health professionals cannot control the work environment in the community.
“This has definitely been a trying, life-changing year,” Morneault added. “Everyone wants their lives to get back to normal, and the more people who get the vaccine, the quicker that can begin to happen.”
About Home Health Foundation
Home Health Foundation, which includes providers Circle Home, Commonwealth Nursing Services, Hallmark Health VNA, Home Health VNA, Home Health VNA of NH, Merrimack Valley Hospice and York Hospital Hospice as part of the Wellforce Health System, provides essential home health and hospice care in all the places patients call home. Together, these agencies are leading the development of a new era of innovation, with a relentless focus on transforming home-based care. For more information, visit HomeHealthFoundation.org.