Eye on KELOLAND: Coping through COVID


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Over the past few months some of you have been spending less time with your families because of COVID-19.

That’s especially true for people with loved ones in nursing homes.

Gus King is a resilient man.

Just ask his wife Sandi.

“He was a full-blooded Lithuanian and a Marine, so he’s been fighting tough,” Gus’s wife Sandi King said.

KELOLAND News interviewed Gus in 2016, when he told us about the time he attended the very first Super Bowl.

In his 81 years, he’s survived time in the Vietnam War, prostate cancer, a heart attack, and more.

In April, more than a month after visitor restrictions went into place, the resident of The Good Samaritan Society Sioux Falls Village found himself in another fight: COVID-19.

“When he first got COVID he really couldn’t tell he had much, but he had that cough,” Sandi King said.

The virus landed Gus in the ICU at a local hospital twice.

“When he was in intensive care he was out. He laid there with not a knowledge of what was going on,” Sandi King said.

But like many times in the past, Gus pulled through.

“If he wouldn’t have made it, we were prepared. But God wasn’t done with him yet,” Sandi King said.

Sandi says Gus has recovered from the virus, although he is in physical therapy to regain strength.

She hasn’t seen her husband face-to-face in months, with the exceptions of his time in the ICU and a recent trip to the VA.

“I met him there, and it was the first time in four months that I actually was with my husband and we got to hold hands,” Sandi King said.

The separation has been one of the most difficult parts of this journey.

“You feel helpless. You just want to give them a hug. You want to be there, tell them you love them in person. I think that was the biggest struggle for me, for the rest of my family, not being able to have the ability to have that interaction,” Gus’s son Bradley King said.

The family did special things for Gus like holding signs outside of the nursing home and talking to him on the phone through the window.

“He never seemed to be angry that he was stuck there and we were free to go,” Sandi King said.

The family is also crediting a certain group of people with providing them some comfort: the staff at the Good Samaritan Society, not only for the care, but the support.

“We will be a surrogate family for them,” Good Samaritan Soceity Sioux Falls Village Chaplain James Claggett said.

James Claggett is a chaplain at the facility on Marion Road.

“The biggest change for us at the village has of course been the closing down, not allowing the residents to have family members come in. That has been a real strain and so it has increased our ministry opportunities because we need to reach out more to the residents,” Claggett said.

Staff members also try to be there for the families.

“You can imagine if they haven’t been able to see their mom or their dad or their grandma or grandpa for weeks or months just how concerned they are, so really what I do is to listen to those concerns, try to appreciate the heartache they’re feeling and if they’re interested to have a prayer with them and try to assure them we’re dong all we can to keep their loved ones safe,” Good Samartian Society Vice President for Mission Integration and Senior Pastor Greg Wilcox said.

“I just can’t say enough for the good care they gave to him because they all knew how trying of time it was. We were very appreciative and supportive of all they were doing in the difficult situation,” Sandi King said.

Even though the pandemic has separated Sandi and her family from Gus, they know he’s not alone.

Sioux Falls Village plans to start allowing scheduled, supervised outdoor visits next week as a part of its phased reopening.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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