One Columbiana family’s coronavirus story

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

One Shelby County family had reason to celebrate recently in the wake of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, and they had lots of help in doing so.

Ninety-two-year-old Ola Dean Coleman was one of the residents of Columbiana Health and Rehabilitation that unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19 in early April. As the facility began to respond to the situation, Mrs. Coleman, who was asymptomatic at the time of testing, was carefully, and with full knowledge of her family, relocated to another facility in Demopolis to wait out the illness in a safe quarantine.

When the ordeal began, her family, not knowing what to expect, was understandably worried. “I was scared—afraid it would take her, and didn’t know if I would see her again,” her daughter Janice Seale shared with us. “We also weren’t entirely sure she understood what was happening to her.”

On the Friday the 13th that no one will forget, March 13, Mrs. Coleman’s family, like so many others, had to face the fact that they would be unable to come inside their mom’s residence to visit due to safeguards put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. One compassionate CNA at Columbiana Health and Rehab shared her personal phone number with Seale and made several Facetime calls possible in order to ease the family’s concerns.

By the time Mother’s Day rolled around the family had received the news of the positive test and plan for quarantine. This was particularly hard on Mrs. Coleman’s children. “My mom is a joker, she loves to get people to laugh,” Seale shared with us. When the staff at the facility in Demopolis arranged a special Mother’s Day Zoom call, the day was saved. “She was calm and laughing and clearly in good spirits,” Seale said, “That, in turn, calmed me down and I was able to enjoy the rest of Mother’s Day.”

Fate smiled on Mrs. Coleman though, and she, fortunately, remained completely asymptomatic. Once she had cleared two tests with negative results, she was moved a little closer to home to Aspire in Hoover, and then on May 20, she came back home to Columbiana Health and Rehabilitation.

Haleigh Gowers, Coleman’s great-granddaughter, and recent nursing graduate told us that her arrival brought a great celebration. “The staff and others were waiting when she arrived with balloons and cheers to welcome her back.” The caring staff has done the same for each and every resident that has had to journey through this ordeal the way Mrs. Coleman has. The rehab center has made a special place for those returning and dubbed it the “Double Negative Hallway.”

Mrs. Coleman is back home, in the environment she feels safest in. Her family, still unable to visit in her room, is happy to have her home, and thankful for the large window through which they can visit the matriarch of their family though. Until then, they look forward to the day they can hold her hand in person.

Sasha Johns is a community columnist who writes about Columbiana.