Her sister was one of 73 COVID deaths at Brighton nursing home. A story of love and tragic loss.

by Nicole C. Brambila

Jamie Worthy-Smith has seen death up close. She sat bedside when her parents passed away in years past. But while they died peacefully, her sister gasped for air, her lungs gurgling for days before COVID-19 took her last breath on April 18.

“My sister did not go peacefully,” said Worthy-Smith, 53, of Kennedy Township. “My sister suffered.”

Worthy-Smith’s sister, Kim McCoy-Warford, is one of 73 residents who, as of Aug. 25, died of coronavirus at the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County.

McCoy-Warford was 64.

The nationwide visitor ban in nursing homes meant Worthy-Smith watched her older sister struggle to breathe for two days over Facetime. She felt helpless.

Located 36 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Brighton has weathered the state’s worst outbreak and one of the nation’s worst with 447 COVID infections among staff and residents.

TribLive published a wide-ranging investigation earlier this month on the conditions at the two-star rated Brighton facility during and before the pandemic. State Attorney General Josh Shapiro later announced his office has launched a criminal investigation into Brighton, and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale shared publicly that the facility refused to cooperate with a financial audit earlier this year.

Brighton officials reported to PublicSource on July 27 that the facility had been COVID-free for more than six weeks.

As public health officials warn of a coming surge of infections in the fall, McCoy-Warford’s story sheds light on some of the hard-won lessons wrought by the outbreaks and on how staffing and supply shortages as well as infection control challenges put nursing home residents at greater risk.

 

Jamie Worthy-Smith lost her sister Kim McCoy-Warford to COVID-19 in April. (Photo by Nicole C. Brambila)

 

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Her sister was one of 73 COVID deaths at Brighton nursing home. A story of love and tragic loss.

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Her sister was one of 73 COVID deaths at Brighton nursing home. A story of love and tragic loss.