Through protective equipment, Lisa Gamble and her sister, Zana Lake, said goodbye to their mother on July 12. Four days before Betty Gamble died at age 87, she contracted COVID-19, her daughters said.
Lisa said she was grateful the nursing home allowed her and her sister to visit their mom “for hours and hours” the day she died.
“We got gowned up with masks, face shields and full gowns," Lisa, 67, said of the precautions used. "We were able to say goodbye. Mom didn’t know we were there.”
In a tragic coincidence, Betty Gamble died just days after the deaths, also involving COVID-19, of a couple that had been her friends and fellow church members. Although Betty Gamble, O.W. "Blackie" Chandler and Doris Chandler all belonged to Tanner United Methodist Church, they had not attended services there since well before the coronavirus pandemic began this year, according to family members and friends.
Betty Gamble had battled Alzheimer’s disease for about a dozen years and had been living at the Senior Rehab and Recovery at Limestone Health Facility in Athens. Lisa Gamble said her mother moved into Limestone Manor, an assisted living facility, a few years before moving into the nursing home in 2018. COVID-19 was listed as a contributing factor in her death, Lisa said.
"I felt very comfortable where she was,” Lisa said. "Limestone Health Facility sent me emails about how many residents had (the coronavirus). It was amazing Limestone Health kept COVID out of the facility as long as they did. I know they couldn’t stay with her 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services COVID-19 data through July 5, the Limestone Health Facility had 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 15 more suspected cases. It had one confirmed coronavirus-related death reported.
Having seen firsthand the effect of COVID-19, Lisa Gamble urged people to wear masks to help combat the pandemic and help keep others safe.
“I wonder how many people will have to die before everyone will be willing to wear a mask,” she said. “Viruses, illnesses, cancer. Those illnesses don’t care who you voted for, what football team you cheer for, what church you go to, what part of town you live in. None of it matters.
"Some people don’t want to sacrifice by wearing masks and using hand sanitizer for a few months so we can beat this pandemic. I ask people to do it to take care of each other.”
She said her mom was a great cook and seamstress.
O.W. “Blackie” Chandler, 85, and his wife Doris, 86, of Athens, both had been battling other illnesses, according to their son, Roger Chandler.
“I believe it was just a coincidence that three of them had gone to the same church, but because of my father’s health, mom and dad haven’t been there in several months, in at least six months,” he said.
He said his father, who had dementia, suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead at the hospital on July 4. He said his father was tested after his death and found to be positive of “some sort of COVID.” He said COVID-19 was listed as a secondary cause of his father's death.
His mother, who was battling congestive heart failure for a couple of years, was listed as a COVID-19 victim six days later.
“Dad had no symptoms,” Roger Chandler said.
Tanner United Methodist Church member Amy Pollick confirmed the Chandlers and Gamble were members at the church but had not attended since before COVID-19 became an issue. She agreed with Roger Chandler that their COVID-19-related deaths had nothing to do with attending church services in Tanner.
“They were all wonderful people, and we will miss them,” she said. “We started drive-in services in the church parking lot in May, where people can sit in their cars and listen to the message on their car radios.
“We will not resume worship inside the sanctuary until infection numbers flatten out,” Pollick added.
One additional death from COVID-19 of a Limestone County resident was reported Wednesday by the Alabama Department of Public Health, bringing the county's death total from the disease to seven. Limestone County had 26 news cases reported Wednesday for a total of 930 since the pandemic began. ADPH said 8,021 Limestone residents have been tested.
Morgan County reported one additional death and 40 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and now has had 11 deaths and 1,784 total cases.
Lawrence County had five new cases for a total of 210 with no deaths.