Associates at Century Park Associates are one big family. We’re spread across the country, but we’re all connected by our passion to serve seniors. When COVID-19 hit the United States, we banded together tighter than ever to protect those we love so much – our residents and fellow associates.
Cyndy Miller was the first associate in the company to get COVID-19. As concierge at The Abbewood in Elyria, Ohio, Cyndy is a valuable employee.
In March, Chris Serdinak, executive director of The Abbewood, noticed that Cyndy looked unwell and sent her home early. A few days later, Chris got the call that Cyndy had tested positive for COVID-19. The Abbewood team was already prepared because many fellow senior care facilities had COVID-19 outbreaks. They immediately implemented further cleaning and infection control procedures.
Meanwhile, Cyndy fought for her life.
“I remember being loaded into the ambulance, but I don’t remember anything after that,” remarked Cyndy Miller.
On March 15, 2020, Cyndy turned 72, and four days later, her life took a traumatic turn. Cyndy was diagnosed with bronchitis a few days earlier, but the symptoms kept getting worse.
“It took me three attempts to fold a load of laundry,” said Cyndy. “I just didn’t have the strength to continue folding, and I had difficulty breathing.”
When Cyndy called her niece who is a nurse, she recommended that Cyndy go to the emergency room immediately.
Once there, Cyndy had several tests on her heart, kidneys, brain and lungs. The doctors said all her organs were functioning properly, but when she was tested for COVID-19 a third time, it came back positive. Even though Cyndy was incoherent, she talked on the phone to her family members.
The hospital then had Cyndy airlifted to another hospital. When arriving, Cyndy was intubated and put on life support for two weeks. The doctors told Cyndy’s niece and other family members that she was not going to live because of her severe lung damage. Cyndy’s niece was determined that this was not the end of the road for her aunt.
“My niece asked why the doctors were going to just dismiss me,” said Cyndy.
The doctors were ready to pull the plug, but her niece said that Cyndy’s organs were all functioning properly, except her lung damage, and that can be manageable. Her niece persevered and was convinced that Cyndy was going to beat COVID-19.
“I’m very grateful my niece can be a bulldog when she needs to be,” laughed Cyndy. “Thanks to her, I’m alive.”
Cyndy’s niece gave Chris daily updates, too, and The Abbewood team worked hard in Cyndy’s honor to protect their residents.
Cyndy woke up and became aware of where she was on April 8 in the ICU. She had a feeding tube in and was on oxygen, and she was in the ICU until the week after Easter. After being tested again for COVID-19, her results came back negative. This confirmed to the doctors that Cyndy was recovering and could be moved to a normal room. Unfortunately, Cyndy still had a long road ahead of her.
The aftereffects were terrible according to Cyndy. She couldn’t use her hands, move her legs and could only lay in the bed. She remembers her breathing treatments being painful and having to wear a mask to sleep at night. Her strength had depleted. Cyndy remembers her room having a glass window and seeing nurses in hazmat suits. Because her strength was low, she didn’t even have enough energy to push the button to alert the nurses that she needed them. Cyndy couldn’t answer the phone due to pain in her lungs, and she would have to wave a nurse in to answer the phone for her and talk. Before moving to a rehab facility, Cyndy was determined to teach herself to pick up the phone and call out, and she succeeded.
Cyndy was transferred to a rehab facility on May 11. During that time, she was not allowed any water or food, only a feeding tube. When Cyndy would try and sit on the edge of the bed, she would have to have a therapist behind her and in front of her, because she couldn’t balance herself while sitting down. After working at it, Cyndy was able to sit on the edge of the bed for 15 minutes. Another therapist was brought in to teach Cyndy how to swallow. Her therapist would bring her a spoon full of applesauce and taught her to hold her chest while she swallowed. She had several tests done on her esophagus, and she failed once, but she kept working at it until she was able to swallow.
While at therapy, Cyndy’s doctor paid her a visit with unpleasant news that she would most likely never return to a normal life like she wanted. The news seemed to keep piling up with worst case scenarios that made Cyndy decide she didn’t want to live.
“I thought if this is going to be my life that has me laying on my back in bed all the time, then that’s not life to me,” said Cyndy. “I signed a paper with hospice.”
“When the time came for me to be moved to hospice, I was told I would only be allowed two visitors, and they had to be the same visitors, no one else,” remarked Cyndy. “I said no to that, and I was going to continue fighting.”
As therapy continued, Cyndy continued to build up strength and was able to take two steps and sit down until she could take more steps. Cyndy relearned how to write her name, and she was able to slowly eat solid foods again.
“When I started to learn to walk again, I was so excited and knew I was going to walk out of this place soon,” said Cyndy. “My handwriting isn’t what it used to be, but I can proudly write my name again.”
Cyndy returned home on July 21. When arriving, her family was waiting for her and took videos of her walking into her home and cheering. Cyndy can do little things around the house at safe pace. Every week, she finds a new task to practice to help herself get better. On September 19, Cyndy was reunited with her big, long-haired cat, Rufus. Her niece had taken care of Rufus while Cyndy was in the hospital.
“I was so happy to get my sweet Rufus back,” remarked Cyndy. “I hadn’t seen him in six months.”
Cyndy is now able to carry on somewhat normally with her life. Everything has changed for her with walking and working, but Cyndy is going back to church, shopping and working part-time at a local school. Cyndy is planning to gain enough strength to return to The Abbewood soon.
“Everyday I am grateful for my life,” said Cyndy. “I couldn’t have gotten through this without the prayers, my family, nurses and community. I’m grateful for my nieces and nephews for having medical knowledge. I got my life back, and I can’t wait to live it surrounded by the people I love.”
“Associates like Cyndy have always been heroes. They choose every day to put their lives on the line in service to others,” said Esmerelda Lee, chief operating officer at Century Park Associates. “We are thankful that through COVID-19 she was one that stood on the front lines and loved first. Century Park Associates is so grateful that she is healthy and restored.”