COVID-19 Survivor: Love, Love, and More Love

I don’t know what to do with this. The outpouring of love, support, well-wishes, prayers, check-ins, generosity, thoughts, and encouragement during my COVID-19 battle and the resulting recovering is amazing. Beyond amazing, actually. It’s very surreal.

I’ve seen this stuff happen for other people, and I’ve taken part in support for others as well. But being the recipient of it is something completely different. And the magnitude of the love, support, and generosity honestly has me speechless – despite being the most positive part of my story, I am at a loss for how to describe this.

In my first conversation with my wife Leslie when I came out of the coma, she said to be prepared for the comments, emails, cards, and general support that I received while I was intubated for 10-days battling pneumonia from COVID-19. And she was right. But before I could see all that (my phone was returned home before me), I got a decent helping from Frederick Memorial Hospital.

I cannot say enough how thankful I am of the doctors, nurses, techs, and assistants who kept me alive and helped me return to the world. When I woke up, every hour there would be someone tapping on the window, seemingly smiling under their mask and giving me a thumbs up. People here are really nice, I thought. Turns out a lot of people worked on me, and each of them stopped by to say how far I came and how happy they were to see me on the mend. By some accounts, I was one of the first and youngest ICU patients at the hospital with COVID-19. They even hung a poster on the glass door of my room with positive words and signed by the ICU staff, framing words of encouragement: “Here’s to you – steadier, stronger, and better EVERY DAY/!”   They would also use dry erase markers to write encouraging words – “You’re going to beat COVID” – on the window.

I wish I could remember all of the nurses’ names with faces (or eyes, since they were covered in PPE) so I could thank them personally. One nurse left me a note saying she was my nurse for the first several days and held my hand. I wonder if it was her in one of my hallucinations where a nurse was holding my hand.

When they talk about the value of nurses and doctors during the pandemic, those medical professionals deserve every word of praise and more. The nurses and techs were patient and kind, and they were helpful to Leslie and my mom who took turns calling each day for updates on my progress. When I was taken out of ICU and still had trouble eating the awful hospital food, the nurses found cereal, soup, and sandwiches to help me find sustenance. The hospital set up home nurses to come and monitor my wounds and progress, and the doctors sent physical and occupational therapists to help me become strong again. They set up blood draws and televisits with a podiatrist so I can stay inside and heal. A nurse who works for my insurance company has been an advocate to get my diabetes medication at a more affordable price (since my prescription coverage does not cover the medication or devices I need).

I wouldn’t be alive without their help, and my recovery would not be as swift as it is right now without their assistance. I am forever grateful and them.

I’m not surprised at the fact that my school community showed support, as time and time again I’ve seen everyone at High Point High step up and help each other. I’m just amazed that it was done for me. I didn’t think I mattered that much. But the emails, the groceries, the generosity, the cards, the phone calls, and the effort to teach my class has me very humbled and proud to be at High Point. My principal kept the staff updated. My department chair took over my classes and updated the students. Another co-worker helped organize support for me and Leslie, and the school’s generosity is beyond words. My administrators sent text messages and cards. I still get words of encouragement from my coworkers and current students, and it is very endearing to know they still think of me. Former coworkers have contacted me. People who worked at the school before me and even High Point alumni have reached out to me with their thoughts and prayers. Other people I have worked with or currently work with showed their support. A colleague I with on curriculum writing said she even fasted for me. I am still amazed by that gesture.

Even my former school, Oxon Hill High, gave me support. A former president of the Class of 2013, which I helped sponsor, started a Google Form where my former students and coworkers sent me words of encouragement and support. One of my former girls’ soccer players wrote, “Fight this just like you taught us to fight for a win every time we set foot on the field.” They said you probably don’t remember us, but I do, and I will remember this outpouring of love forever.

I’ve always found it weird being the story instead of the one writing it. I prefer my name on the byline than in the lede. But having been in the journalism business for 10 years and amassing so many former colleagues, I suppose that couldn’t be avoided. Leslie knows me very well and that I would want my story out in the world so people can know how bad COVID-19 really is. I appreciate the consideration and stories (though I think The Washington Post forgot that I have some bylines from the days when the PG Gazette was pimped out to help fill the Post’s local pull-outs). I appreciate the stories by Glynis Kazanjian, and her editor (and my former editor) Tim Maier for running my posts here in the Baltimore Post-Examiner.  I’m also thankful for an old hockey buddy for reaching out to the hockey community and helping get video messages from Capitals radio announcer Wes Johnson, Caps color announcer Craig Laughlin, and Caps forward Nic Dowd. Not only did those messages make me feel humble, but it also made Leslie happy, and that is important to me.

Churches were praying for me, and despite being non-religious, I greatly appreciate the sentiment and action.

COVD-19 doesn’t just affect the infected. The family around that person is highly impacted as well. Leslie couldn’t visit me, and with the exception of our temperamental cat Poe, she was alone, quarantined in our small apartment. What I’m most appreciative of is the support provided to Leslie during my absence. Apparently she has built a stronger bond with my mom and my aunt, as they would talk nearly daily and support each other. No one could visit me because the hospital was not admitting any visitors. Imagine if your husband or son or nephew was critically ill, and all you had was semi-daily updates to go on. You cannot be by their bed or even outside of their room. You can’t hold their hand or talk to them. My mom couldn’t come up from South Carolina to see her son because of my isolation and the concern for her well being. What I went through was tough, but what my wife and family had to endure was equally as challenging. Yet Leslie’s family and mine were there for her, and I appreciate that more than anything..

I came home to a fridge and pantry full of food as Leslie’s father and stepmom, one of my co-workers and my aunt provided my wife with groceries and homemade food since she too was under quarantine. We are grateful for their generosity and support. Unfortunately, I can no longer eat much of the food since I have to count carbs due to diabetes, but I do appreciate the help.

Our friends were there, too, calling to check-in on us and setting up a GrubHub account for my wife.

There are definitely names I forgot, but know that everything that has been said in support, praise, and encouragement has been read, absorbed, and much appreciated. You do not realize how much those things help lift a spirit of someone who nearly died and now has to alter his lifestyle to continue living. To know that we are that loved helps in the healing process. There have been so many emails, messages, and social media comments that it is very overwhelming to respond to everyone.

The actions of family, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers show the humanity and community we still have despite these difficult times. There aren’t enough ways or times I can say thank you for all the love and support we received. But I will try, and say a thousand times, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Editor’s Note: This is a series of stories that Jason Flanagan penned on Facebook and granted permission for us to re-publish. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 and 3 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Please read our stories on Jason’s fight to survive: 

Prince George’s County Teacher in ICU; Family awaits COVID-19 test results

Prince George’s County Teacher Tests Positive for COVID-19: Family Waited 7 Days for Results