Richland woman says caregiver almost gave her COVID-19

A Tri-Cities woman shares how she could have easily contracted the virus.

A woman recently needing at-home care was nearly exposed to the deadly coronavirus when one of her caregivers contracted it but showed no symptoms.

Willow Emineth of Richland said she doesn’t want to get the virus if she knows how to prevent it. Emineth started her healthcare battle on February 16 after experiencing a heart attack at her home. She went Kadlec Regional Medical Center and then to Trios Health Center to be seen. Her health quickly declined as her kidneys were only functioning at 15%.

“I always said that I would not do dialysis,” Emineth said, “So I asked them to send me home and I went home on hospice. I don’t really remember anything that happened for about three weeks. Then when I woke up on March 3rd, I was like what it’s going on?”

After weeks of being on hospice, she decided to try dialysis.

“You just don’t decide one day you’re going to do dialysis and start right away. It took me from March until this week to begin dialysis because you have surgeries and all that great stuff.”

Emineth was tested seven times for COVID-19 before starting dialysis. Through it all, she had two home healthcare professionals helping her. She is wheelchair-bound and says she has a tough time doing things throughout the house.

“It’s been a challenge, needless to say, especially waking up to a pandemic,” she said.

Though she was fighting several health issues, she hadn’t contracted the deadly virus spreading throughout the world that has infected thousands of people in her county. She realized quickly that that could change by letting people inside her home.

“My main caregiver came to me one day and said, my husband’s been exposed to COVID, so I have to go get checked,” she said.

Emineth along with her second caregiver went to get tested. They found that her main caregiver and her husband were infected with the virus, but her caregiver showed no signs.

“She is completely 100% asymptomatic.”

The healthcare agency that employees Emineth’s caregiver said that after the CDC recommended the isolation period, the caregiver would be safe to return to work. Emineth demanded the caregiver receive another test and have negative results before coming back inside her home.

“This past Tuesday we received her second test and it came back positive,” she said, “They were completely willing to send her to my own without being tested.”

The Washington Department of Health has compiled guidelines for caregivers in how they can keep their clients safe. Chris Wright with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services said caregivers have been vital throughout an unprecedented crisis and they’re dealing with situations that have never happened before, just like the rest of us.

Wright said while dealing with a vulnerable population, caregivers should limit contact whenever it is possible.

“It’s recommended, they do some telemedicine if possible as far as checking on residents, their status, how they’re doing,” Wright said. “Go get them groceries and you could leave at the door without interacting with them directly. With the level of care needed for most of these clients, you’re going to have to have some direct care.”

The healthcare agency Emineth works with said they would send another home healthcare professional into her home to help, but she said she can’t take that risk.

“It’s really scary for people, for people that have immune system issues that are already fighting something because then our bodies just cannot fight COVID,” she said, “And people who have caregivers coming in and out have the right to know if their caregivers are sick. I truly believe that. And my caregiver tested positive again after 14 days of self-isolation.”

Wright said people should talk with their agency about their concerns, but if they still feel like there is a problem with care, they can report an issue with Washington DOH.

“If a terribly egregious situation that was getting to the point of neglect or abuse, DSHS also runs adult protective services and you can make a report to us if it’s gotten that far but then hopefully it wouldn’t.”