HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- For several hours Tuesday, families of veterans devastated by COVID-19 testified before a legislative oversight committee wanting to make sure something like the deadly virus outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home never happens again.
It was a very sad day at Holyoke Community College. Many family members choked up sharing their personal experiences with the coronavirus outbreak at the home.
Emotions ran high Tuesday as family members of veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home shared their stories of loss, sickness and uncertainty testifying before a state legislative oversight committee on Tuesday.
Cheryl Turgeon said in March her dad became very sick as COVID-19 spread through the home.
Although he is still here today, she said it has taken a massive toll on him leaving him wheelchair-bound.
“He was left in a bed for weeks and weeks and weeks until his toes turned black,” she said. “And he had pressure ulcers and they said they were going to cut off his left toe on his right foot. The surgeon said to me this shouldn't have happened -- but it did.”
She told legislators the Holyoke Soldiers Home needed more hands-on deck.
“It was a direct result of staffing and not having enough staffing to take care of the veterans during this time,” she said.
Another man whose father was one of the 76 veterans who died from the coronavirus said the outbreak changed his life forever.
“The last memory I have of my father is one that I will see over and over again when they would liberate concentration camps,” he said. “You could see the survivors. My dad didn’t look like a survivor. He looked like he passed away.”
Western Mass News spoke with state Sen. John Velis, one of the many legislators on the oversight committee.
“It’s emotional just to hear first hand from the families the experience they had,” he said.
He said by next March, there will be a detailed recommendation to make sure our veterans don’t go through something like this again.
“We are going to take a look at some of what happened in the past but really to only talk about ways that can help us go forward and prevent this from ever happening again. Whatever happened, it is a national tragedy,” he said.
More testimony from families will be heard on Thursday. Then next week, staff members at the home will testify. Come March, that’s when the legislature's final report is expected.