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Woodbury nursing home resident wants 'the truth' about COVID-19 there  

Newsday reporter Jim Baumbach spoke to Marianne Dimmler, a resident of Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, about what it's like to live inside a nursing home during this uncertain time. Credit: Newsday / Jim Baumbach

Nursing home resident Marianne Dimmler says she can handle the truth.

Dimmler, 59, lives at Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Woodbury. She doesn’t know for certain if another resident or staffer has died from COVID-19. She wants to know.

“I can take the truth,” she said. “I’d like the truth.”

Instead, as the pandemic wreaks havoc on elder-care facilities across Long Island, all she has to go on is “rumor.” She says she knows other residents on her floor have died. But she doesn’t always quite believe why.

“They are telling people this one had bronchitis, this one had pneumonia, and that’s why they died,” Dimmler said. 

“I’m assuming their business will be dead if they’re telling people that the COVID is here,” she said.

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Dimmler's only source of information inside the building is the nurses and aides, she said, and each one seems to say something different about how much the virus is impacting the building.

“No one knows what’s going on,” she said. “No one knows. It’s all rumor between the aides. Some people are all, ‘Everything is OK.’ ”

"I feel like a sitting duck sometimes," she added.

Dimmler, who is from Mineola, said she has been at Cold Spring Hills for five years since she was hospitalized for three months with a blood infection that led her to be intubated. She said when she awoke she no longer had the ability to use her right arm. She also is diabetic. 

Samantha Mastro, senior vice president of Philosophy Care Centers — which operates six elder-care centers on Long Island, including Cold Spring Hills — did not respond to requests for comment regarding Dimmler's account of life inside the Woodbury facility. Efforts to reach Mastro include emails Thursday and Friday and a voicemail and text message on Friday.

Mastro said on April 16 that Cold Spring Hills “has patients that are suspected or confirmed to have coronavirus infections.” She declined to say then whether anyone there has died.

Cold Spring Hills does not appear on the state Health Department’s list of facilities that have self-reported five or more virus-related deaths inside the building.

Dimmler spends her days trying not to think about the worst-case scenario, but she says it’s not easy given current events.

“This is end-of-the-world stuff,” she said. “It’s really nerve-wracking.”

At Cold Spring Hills, Dimmler said she is on a floor with people who either need oxygen or are overweight. She said there was only one nurse on the floor April 18 to care for what she believes to be 39 patients. She said the nurse didn't get around to her room for her morning blood insulin level check until 2 p.m.

"It's reasonable because he was the only one out there," she said, "but that was a little scary with the medicine."

A few weeks ago, a friend of hers who lived in the room across her hall was taken to the hospital after getting pneumonia. When Dimmler texted her for an update, the woman’s daughter wrote back to say her mother had died. They suspected coronavirus, she said.

“I don’t know if she got it here,” Dimmler said, “or if she got it in the hospital.”

Loneliness also is a constant, thanks to the quarantine rules that keep her in her room all day and, she said, lead nervous staffers to avoid stopping by to chat like they used to.

“It’s nerve-wracking because the aides are scared,” Dimmler said, adding that whenever someone calls in sick the anxiety level ratchets up a few notches.

“You’re dependent on the workers,” she said. “If they’re calling in sick or they’re scared, I don’t want them to be scared. I’m scared.”

Her days begin when an aide helps her out of her bed and into a chair. “I start," she said, "by wiping down everything in my room.” Her sister, nephew and niece recently dropped off a care package that included bleach and alcohol to sanitize.

Dimmler watches Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s news conference every morning, then tries to spend her quarantined time doing something different from the previous day, whether it’s movies, arts and crafts, or reading.

"It can get very lonely," she said.

But any time she successfully escapes reality is never for long. The sight of nurses walking by in what she describes as "rubber suits" jars her back to the present inside a nursing home amid a pandemic.

“That’s scary for us to see,” she said. “They don’t have time to joke around talking to you anymore. They just want to get out of here and go home to their families.

“It’s very, very stressful.”

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