May 17, 2021

Local 92-year-old resident beats COVID-19

Several senior citizens at long-term care facilities in McHenry County have died from COVID-19.

In McHenry County, 261 out of 742 cases of the virus have been reported for the ages between the ages of 60 and 99, according to the McHenry County Department of Public Health. Senior citizens are at higher risk for developing serious complications for COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But one 92-year-old woman may be beating the odds.

Geri Burney, a 13-year resident at The Fountains of Crystal Lake, returned to her son’s home last week from the Journey Care hospice in-patient facility in Barrington after making a potential recovery from COVID-19.

“It's like a miracle,” Burney’s son, Tom Burney said.

Burney had been in isolation since March 18 and contracted the virus about a month ago. During Tom and Burney’s nightly well-being calls, Burney suddenly started feeling feverish. In just less than a month, her condition got to a point where Tom and his family members thought they were going to lose her.

“She was needing like 13 or 14 I think it's milliliters of oxygen a minute. So she was just really gasping for air. She still had a fever. Talking to her, she was lifeless”, Tom, 69, said.

Burney was not put on a ventilator but instead was given medication at Northwestern Medicine Hospital in McHenry. Thanks to the health care staff at Northwestern Hospital, the “first class” JourneyCare inpatient facility and The Fountains of Crystal Lake, Tom said she was able to recover.

“They always came up with plans to get my mom back, finding a 24 hour aide to be here with us. The unit over at Northwestern McHenry, couldn't have asked for more,” he said. “We are really blessed to have those three wonderful institutions in our community.”

While Tom doesn't know if Burney no longer has the virus, Burney currently is not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including cough and fever.

Upon her return from Journey Care, family members greeted Burney on her son’s driveway with signs saying “I love you Geri” as she waved to them coming out of the ambulance.

“She was getting out of the ambulance she was waving, all her family and friends were there to go either. She's really a battler,” he said.

For Burney, isolation has been difficult, Tom said. To help Burney cope, Tom and his wife would bring their puppy Louis with them when visiting Burney at The Fountains.

“She couldn't wait to see him and now Louis sits in a room at the foot of her bed. It's really cool,” he said.

Burney will stay with Tom until June, hoping to keep her company and until spread of the virus slows.

“She's said she's died and gone to heaven. It's a critical decision for a family to make. We could have set her back to The Fountains,” he said. “She would have been socially isolated again. But having her here and a 24-hour aide being able to check in on her, you just get this sweet, serene smile.”