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Arlene Chesley, who charted a new life after a brain aneurysm and stroke, dies of covid-19

Arlene Chesley lived at a long-term care facility in La Plata, Md., for more than two decades before dying May 6 of covid-19. She was 78.
Arlene Chesley lived at a long-term care facility in La Plata, Md., for more than two decades before dying May 6 of covid-19. She was 78. (Family photo)
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More than two decades ago, Arlene Chesley survived a brain aneurysm and stroke that left her partly paralyzed and unable to speak.

Over the course of the year that followed, her son Patrick Chesley said, his once-extroverted mother, who had loved to sing and dance, cried often.

But then she charted a new life for herself.

“After the first year, she understood that this was the way she was going to live her life out,” Patrick Chesley said. “She made herself satisfied.”

Arlene Chesley moved into Charles County Nursing and Rehabilitation — now Sagepoint Senior Living — in 1999. Doctors told her after the aneurysm that she would be lucky to live for five years, her son said. But she lived another 21, years filled with bingo, music — Diana Ross and the Supremes were her favorite — and visits from her six grandchildren.

Chesley died of covid-19 on May 6 at Charles Regional Medical Center. She was 78.

She was one of 34 Sagepoint residents who have died of covid-19, according to state data released last week. The facility has the highest death toll of any nursing home in Maryland. The 165-bed facility in La Plata, Md., was fined $10,000 a day by the state for violating infection control protocols.

Too few masks, tests and workers: How covid-19 spread through Maryland nursing homes

“She wasn’t ready to go when this coronavirus took her,” said Patrick Chesley, who is among family members who say Sagepoint failed to protect their loved ones or communicate what was happening at the facility.

Patrick Chesley, 55, said that when he demanded to visit his mother at the nursing home in late April — donning full personal protective gear — he could see that many of the rooms that usually had two residents only had one. Behind closed doors, he said, he could hear people groaning.

“That was the eeriest feeling I had ever had in my life,” he said. “It was stifling.”

Sagepoint did not respond to requests for comment.

Chesley was born in Philadelphia and moved to La Plata after the first grade. After high school, she went to cosmetology school and became a licensed cosmetologist, doing hair for a living. Later in life, she also became an assistant special-education teacher, her son said.

She raised him and his brother as a divorced single mother. He said she loved cooking, planting flowers and, after he and his brother had children, seeing her grandchildren.

Even though she never regained the ability to speak, Chesley was protective of her fellow residents at Sagepoint, he said. She would often instruct her son to wheel her around the facility to check on them.

“She would keep pointing, and we would get to someone’s room on the other side of the nursing home, and she would sit there and look at them to see how they were doing,” he said. “She was persistent. She cared about others more than she did about herself.”

He said he knows that he wants justice for his mother and the other Sagepoint residents who died, even though he is not yet sure what that would look like. Mostly, he knows that he wants them to be remembered.

“I want to make sure that my mother and the other 34 people who died do not become forgotten ghosts,” he said.

Report details deficiencies at Maryland nursing home with highest covid-19 deaths

Too few masks, tests and workers: How covid-19 spread through Maryland nursing homes

Md. nursing home with most deaths to be fined $10,000 a day since March 30

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