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Coronavirus as told by a survivor

As COVID continues to spread and mutate, we all are doing everything we feel is best to personally do our part to not contract this deadly virus or spread it to our family and neighbors. During the early days of the virus in 2020, we were trying to sort through all of the confusing information and prayed we would be spared the devastating effects being reported. Many of us, me included, contracted the virus and did the best we could to manage symptoms at home, but for others, the virus took a serious turn that required hospitalization. We have encouraged our readers to share their stories, and we have one to share with you this week. Deborah Martin of Kite allowed us to ask about her experience and her continuing recovery from COVID.

Martin was born in Athens, and her family moved to Milledgeville when she was young. She attended Georgia College and received an associate degree in business. She met and married her husband, Harry, in July 1976 and moved to Kite. She worked for 32 years at Ogeechee Behavioral Health Services as the business manager. She and Harry have two children: Anna, who is married to Matt Gillespe, and have two children, Madi and Andrew; and Will, who is married to Allison Blount Martin, and they have six children, Billy, John-Nathan, Lyla, Samuel, Nichols, and Abel.

“I didn’t think that we would catch anything, but COVID hit our family pretty hard. I am the only one with continuing symptoms. The vaccine was not available when I contracted it in December 2020. I have sense been vaccinated,” Martin stated.

She was diagnosed with COVID around December 16, 2020 and entered the hospital on December 23 when she began to have difficulty breathing.

Prior to December 23, she had mild cold symptoms. Also, like many others, she doesn’t know where she contracted the virus.

“I had a very severe case. I entered the hospital on December 23 and was transferred to AU on January 9, 2021 with COVID pneumonia,” Martin continued. “I was immediately put on a ventilator and put in an induced coma. After lung cultures, it was then diagnosed as klebsiella pneumonia. On January 27, I had tracheotomy surgery. After a period of time, I was transferred to a rehabilitation center, where I was not able to see my family, although I was still in a coma most of the time. I had a setback with pseudomonas pneumonia days after Easter and was transferred back to Augusta University on April 10, 2021. That same day, I coded and Augusta University (AU) saved my life for the second time.

“After showing some improvements, I was then transferred to Wills Memorial Rehabilitation Center in Washington on April 29, 2021. Wills Memorial respiratory rehabilitation program helped me learn how to swallow again, breathe again, along with needing occupational and physical therapy for learning all basic functions again. I had some moments of confusion/hospital delirium due to be hospitalized for so long. I was slowly weaned off the trachea tube in my throat, and it was removed on June 8. My breathing continued to improve, and I continued to get stronger. I was transported home on June 23 after being away from my home for exactly six months. I am still in recovery today. With the scarring in my lungs, I will never be exactly the way I was before getting sick, but thankful for each day I have with my family.”

When asked how she dealt with all those struggles she said, “The hardest part when I was coherent was being away from my family. My family had to depend on updates from doctors and nurses over the phone when they weren’t able to enter a facility along with only being with me at certain times. Sick individuals need their families with them for the emotional support and to speak for them. Family members are also able to help out with small tasks that help out the nurses with their job, too. With not allowing family access, it is like treating the patient like they were well and treating the family like they are sick. I was able to come through this experience with my faith in the Lord and the prayers from so many people especially from the local community. My family never gave up. Even though doctors said I would have random moments of confusion and that I may always have to wear corrective shoes—none of this has happened.”

The Chronicle asked Deborah what precautions she is taking each day, and she has quite a regimen still.

“I am on a heightened amount of vitamins and supplements recommended by my doctor, along with my other daily medications that I didn’t take before getting sick. My family and I are more perceptive and have discussions when making decisions to attend large crowd events as far as the accommodations and weather. I think we all use hand sanitizer a little bit more than we did two years ago on a daily basis. I am still on low-level oxygen and have some numbness in my feet, legs, and some fingers. Due to the scarring in my lungs and lack of lung reserves, I get exhausted and fatigued easily after walking a long ways or climbing stairs.”

Even with having such a severe case, she stated, “I am a firm believer that people need to do what they feel comfortable doing as far as wearing a mask or not and to discuss with your doctor what is good for you. Everyone is different, but people do need to be respectful for those around them and stay home when they don’t feel well.”

We all remember pictures of the healthcare workers who were on the frontline when this virus hit and when asked about her thoughts on those individuals, Martin shared these words, “I had some wonderful healthcare workers, and I am forever grateful to all of them. I still continue to thank them from the bottom of my heart. Augusta University saved my life on January 9 and on April 10. AU assisted me to getting to Wills Memorial for rehab. Wills Memorial helped me with their ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking as far as for my daily treatments and organic ‘real food’ tube feedings so that I could get home to my family and continue to heal in the comfort of my own home.”

In closing, The Chronicle asked Martin if she had any advice or a message for people. She does.

“Make every day count, and don’t take family time for granted. We opened gifts for Christmas 2020 on Fourth of July weekend. All time is precious with family. Prayer has given us all comfort during this ordeal. I felt all the prayers for me. Even during the times in the hospital when I didn’t have my family, I knew the Lord was with me and I was not alone. “

The Crossroads Chronicle thanks Martin for sharing her ordeal with readers and wishes her continued recovery and a happy 2022.

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