Jonesborough nursing home holds drive-by parade for residents, families

Jonathan Roberts • May 16, 2020 at 9:00 AM

It’s been more than two months since Debbie Mullins last saw her father, Colby DeBusk, in person — which makes days like Friday all the more special.

As a patient at Four Oaks Healthcare Center, a Jonesborough nursing home, DeBusk’s contact with the outside world has been limited by visitation restrictions meant to prevent an outbreak of the novel coronavirus there. On Friday, however, the center organized a drive-by parade to let families see their loved ones and get their patients outside, if only for a short time.

As Mullins drove past her father, she could hardly control her happiness. Sitting in his wheelchair with a sign reading “Love to you!” DeBusk also seemed happy to see her. Smiling from ear to ear, he shouted “that’s my daughter!” as Mullins drove by, with both waving excitedly at each other.

DeBusk’s wife and Mullins’ mother, Corky, rode shotgun and, likewise, was all smiles.

“I’m thankful for the people who’ve been so kind and careful to take care of everyone here,” Mullins said, fighting back tears. “It’s been a blessing to know he’s in such good hands, and we praise the Lord for the way things have worked out under the circumstances.”

Mullins said seeing her father helped show her that he’s doing OK, and commended the Four Oaks staff for their work keeping families connected, even if it’s just a phone call. Corky DeBusk said knowing her husband was being “well-cared for” was “the reason I’m able to sleep at night.”

Marcia Mayes, the activity and marketing director for Four Oaks, said it was important to get the facility’s residents outside and give them a chance to see their families through more than just a window and hear their voice in person, rather than through a phone.

“It’s a part of their quality of life, and if they don’t have that, what do they have?” Mayes said. “Just being able to do something like this for them, it means the world, honestly.

“I’ve done this work for eight years, and I honestly have not seen our residents happier than they are right now,” Mayes said as cars began staging for the parade.

For Kirsten Collins, there were similar emotions of happiness and excitement as she sat in her vehicle, adorned with flowers and inspirational messages like “stay young at heart.” Collins was there to see her mother, who’s been at Four Oaks for over a year as she battles dementia.

“We are making the best of what the times have to offer us — that’s all anyone can do right now,” Collins said. “I did get a little teary-eyed this morning, I’m really, really excited to see her.”

As she and her husband, Darrell, waited in their car, she struggled to find her mother amongst the dozens of residents and staff surrounding the building, waiting for the same opportunity to say something to their loved ones.

As she drove by the facility’s main door, however, she found her mother — sitting in the shade and enjoying the outdoors for the first time in weeks. For both Collins and Mullins, that one moment was all they wanted, and both got exactly what they hoped for.

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