PARIS — David Hatch has had enough. The long-term resident at Market Square Health Care Center has been stuck inside, even confined to his room at times, since March.

Courtney Oland (left), a pharmacist with Guardian of Brunswick, gives 58-year-old David Hatch his initial Moderna vaccine against COVID-19. Hatch was the first resident at Market Square Health Care Center to receive the vaccine. Supplied photo

“I want to be the first [here] to take the vaccine,” the 58-year-old Hatch declared in a Zoom Conference interview on Monday. “I want to be first and I want to get out of here.

“This is not much fun. I have never been stuck indoors for this long before.”

Hatch was granted his wish. He was the first person at the long-term care facility to be vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine on Tuesday. While he will not be able to get back out in public for at least 28 more days, after his second shot, he is excited nonetheless. He really wants to go out for dinner, to Olive Garden specifically.

Life at Market Square has been difficult since the beginning of December. Hatch is one of just eight residents there who has, so far, escaped being infected with the coronavirus. Ninety others became ill and at least eight of them lost their lives. Many of the facility’s care-givers were infected as well.

As they worked to contain the outbreak, staff also formed bubbles of care for the eight uninfected residents.

“David has had his own care team to stay safe,” said Hatch’s nurse Brittany Walker. “Only limited staff were allowed access to his room. He is unable to see any other patients. Meals, his therapy sessions, all have to be done in his room, in isolation.”

Hatch was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic and severe form of the disease. He had one brother also born with it. Hatch has had to use a wheelchair since the age of nine and required a tracheal ventilator when he was 20. While physical therapy helps him maintain a degree of movement in his arms and legs, his motor skills are pretty much limited to one finger.

Until COVID-19 came to Maine, DMD did not slow Hatch down. One of the things he misses most is going to truck pulls with his father Arthur, who is 88 and currently sheltering at home in West Paris.

David Hatch’s father Arthur stands with his 1972 Ford. The Hatch family has used the truck to compete in New England truck pulls since 1980. Supplied photo

“We started it in 1980,” Hatch said. “We were looking for things to do together. We go on weekends, to Fryeburg, Oxford, Cumberland, Bridgton, Skowhegan, even Bangor, New Hampshire and Vermont.”

Arthur Hatch bought a 1972 Ford F250 in 1979 that he continued to compete in truck pulls with up until last year. While it has not been street legal in years, the elder Hatch maintains it for competition. David says the truck has pulled as much as 30,000 pounds at events. His room at Market Square is adorned with ribbons and trophies won by his father.

David is not able to ride with his father at truck pulls, but calls himself the coach.

“I direct him along the track,” he said.

Hatch’s younger sister Charity, who now lives in Florida, and his older brother John, of Oxford, also used to drive in the pulls. Hatch’s mother Grace participated as a spectator, until she passed away in 2010.

Through the fall Hatch’s family could come visit with him through the window at least. Now it is too cold for his father to stay outside for very long and Charity is unable to come up from Florida due to public health restrictions.

Hatch family awards from truck pulls adorn David Hatch’s room at Market Square Health Care Center.

Traveling and competing with his father and staving off the virus are not Hatch’s only achievements. Market Square staff has reason to believe he is the oldest person in the world right now with Duchenne. Their online research revealed that there is one person in Ohio with DMD who is 55, and another in The Netherlands is listed as being 54. Walker said they plan to reach out to the Muscular Dystrophy Association to confirm if Hatch should indeed hold the title.

The vaccine administered, Market Square has circled Saturday, Jan. 16 as the next big day to watch. That is when staff will learn if the Maine Center for Disease Control determines the facility as recovered from its post-Thanksgiving Covid-19 outbreak. The facility is also eager for an announcement from state officials changing Oxford county’s public health status from yellow back to green. When that happens employees and residents can start a return to their more normal routine – therapy sessions will move back to regular rooms and people will be able to take their meals in the socially-distanced dining room.

Routine is important to Hatch. Asked about the usual care and the more recent bubble approach he’s gotten, he is clear about his feelings. He has trained his care takers to help him maintain a very regular schedule.

“Mostly they’re very good. Sometimes [lately] it’s not so good. I keep a routine and I don’t like changing it.”

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