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'Rain or shine we’ve got to celebrate grandma.' COVID-19 patient celebrates 95th birthday with family

Helen Gies' family says they’re used to throwing big celebrations for birthdays, so a pandemic and some rain couldn’t keep them away.

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. — How do you celebrate a woman's 95th birthday, after she tests positive for the virus? You throw her a social distancing party!

The special celebration took place at Wedgewood Healthcare Center two days after the health department announced a cluster of COVID-19 cases at the nursing home. 

One of the residents who tested positive for the virus turned 95 and Wednesday, her family made sure they showed up to encourage her.

"We just wanted to make sure that she knew she was loved,” said Christine Wright, the granddaughter of Helen Gies.

Wright and other family members showed up to talk with Gies through her nursing home room window, bringing signs and balloons to celebrate her. Staff members at Wedgewood used their phones to facetime the family from inside.

“I just want to say thank you to all the healthcare workers and everybody here at Wedgewood who’s taking care of grandma and has allowed for this to happen today,” said Wright.

Wright describes her family as close-knit and credits her grandparents for inspiring that.

“It comes from grandma and grandpa for sure,” said Wright. “She started it all.”

The family says they’re used to throwing big celebrations for birthdays, so a pandemic and some rain couldn’t keep them away.

"Rain or shine we’ve got to celebrate grandma.”

“We’re here to show support for mom because it's such a tough time,” said Carl Gies, one of Helen’s seven children.

Wednesday also marks one year since Helen Gies moved to live at Wedgewood. The transition meant moving away from her husband of 75 years, who currently lives at Westminster Village. The family used to transport the two to visit each other, but since the coronavirus has shut down visitations within nursing homes, that hasn’t been possible.

"It's been extremely hard for them not to see each other,” said Wright.

And now, Helen Gies has tested positive for COVID-19. The family says she’s asymptomatic, but it’s still difficult to deal with.

"I really want to cry, because grandma being in there without us. It's hard, it's very hard,” said Wright.

"Emotionally it's kind of agonizing, knowing what mom and dad are both going through,” said Carl Gies.

But the family says they’re leaning on one another to get through it all.

“There’s so much love. We’ve got more than 100 in our whole ‘clan’ so to speak,” said Carl.

Carl says the family made a goal to have at least 95 cards delivered to Helen for her birthday.

“There’s army wives that have been sending things, I’ve had some kids from Highland Hills Middle School send some things to the grandparents and to other residents in the nursing home,” said Wright. "Her and my grandpa have instilled so many blessings upon this family. They've always been there for us. We always want to be there for them and tell them thank you."

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