Vaccinations prove to be a Christmas present for vets home residents

  • ABOVE: Rita Landry, a 92-year-old veteran of the Air Force, became the first resident at the New Hampshire Veterans Home to get a coronavirus vaccine when she received a shot on Thursday. Courtesy

  • LEFT: A painting of WAC veteran Rita Landry sits on a table in front of her at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton on Nov. 10.

  • WAC veteran Rita Landry waves through the window of the Town Hall of the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton on Tuesday, November 10, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 12/28/2020 2:25:08 PM

Rita Landry has watched with dismay as COVID-19 infected two-thirds of her fellow residents at the New Hampshire Veterans Home over the last six weeks.

But she has remained healthy and there’s a good chance she will stay that way.

The outbreak appears to be easing, and last week she became the first person at the home to receive a vaccination.

“I was very happy to get it,” the 92-year-old Air Force veteran said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I missed the roundabout that came so quickly here, and was beginning to think my luck might go away.”

She recommends everybody get vaccinated.

“I always have good luck getting shots, wasn’t nervous at all, took it very well, never felt the sting of it, didn’t have any side effects. To me it was a wonderful experience.”

There were 135 residents at the home when the virus got in, perhaps through a staff member who unknowingly contracted it in the community. A total of 36 residents have died since the outbreak was first made public on Nov. 12, one day after Veterans Day.

“I have a lot of friends here,” Landry said. “It’s like a big family at times and it’s such a terrible thing to have to have this. I had two very good friends in my unit that passed away.”

This is the second deadliest outbreak in New Hampshire, behind one at the Hillsborough County Nursing Home, where 39 people died over the summer.

On Thursday, there were eight residents with active infections and 47 have recovered. A total of 11 staff members have COVID-19, and 86 have recovered.

Statewide, there are 6,409 current cases, 305 people are currently hospitalized and 677 deaths have been attributed to the disease, or 2 percent of the 38,512 people infected in the state since the pandemic began almost 10 months ago, according to the New Hampshire Health and Human Services Department.

Sarah Stanley, a spokeswoman at the veterans home, said more vaccinations will be given at the home next week. Indications are the outbreak is easing after the virus ran through the home like wildfire.   

“Knock on wood, our numbers are looking much better,” Stanley said.

The arrival of the vaccine right before Christmas has been like a gift of sorts to  residents and to staff members, many of whom have been working long hours under difficult conditions. 

Landry has been able to have only limited contact with her three daughters. One lives in Littleton, another in Strafford and the third in Boscawen.

“I called each one and told them, ‘I’m going to have the shot,” and when I talked to them, strange enough as it is, they said, ‘Merry Christmas, Mom.’

“They are very happy that I am here at the home and have had good success being here. They love the place and the fact that I am in good hands.”

Over the summer, while the home was on lockdown, her daughters came to the parking lot, kept their distance and spoke to her through an exterior window. They’ve also been communicating through video streaming on a computer.

Landry, who had a birthday last month, said she feels grateful that she doesn’t have the underlying conditions medical conditions afflicting many of her fellow veterans.

She served almost four years in the Air Force, leaving in 1950 to get married to a member of the Canadian Navy she met in Michigan when his flight got held over. She was working as a stenographer for an Air Force colonel.

Landry was born in Lincoln, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains have a special place in her heart. She lived in Canada for 15 years, but ended up returning to her native state because she wanted her children to know what country living was like.

She explained her philosophy.

“I’m at an age now where we have to realize that life comes to an end. I just feel very comfortable and blessed that I have this good health and long life. But I’m going to be ready to go when the time comes, and I wish that for everybody, anybody really sick and not enjoying life, they are waiting for the day to go into another lifestyle.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 




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