Maurice Meadows never imagined a COVID-19 infection would nearly cost him his life and leave his three young children without their father.
The Andrews resident, 33, successfully recovered from COVID-19, but not before spending about a month in critical care in an unpredictable battle with the illness. At one point, his heart suddenly stopped, and his care team wasn’t sure if he’d pull through.
“I don’t remember any of it – only what my doctors and nurses told me I’d been through,” says the forklift operator. “They had me sedated through most of it. When I woke up three weeks later in the ICU, I had no idea where I was. It was pretty scary.”
‘It really took a toll’
Meadows was diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-June after a positive test for the illness. His symptoms began with a cough followed by a fever and vomiting the following day.
In only a few hours, he went from bad to worse, prompting his wife, Chrisetta, to drive him to the emergency department at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital, where he was admitted for treatment.
In alignment with the comprehensive Safe in Our Care safety protocols at Tidelands Health, Meadows was given a face mask upon arrival, kept separate from other patients and brought to a specially designated room for care.
“I really don’t have any underlying health conditions,” he says. “I was in good shape before I got sick. I very rarely get sick. It really took a toll on me.”
None of his children were infected, but Chrisetta, who has diabetes, high blood pressure and requires weekly dialysis, contracted the disease. She, too, spent about a week battling COVID-19 in the critical care unit at Tidelands Georgetown – just a few doors down from where her husband was fighting for his life.
“My symptoms weren’t really that bad,” says Chrisetta, a home health worker. “I had some coughing, and it was hard to breath.”
For Chrisetta, the hardest part about the ordeal was not being able to visit her husband, knowing that he was severely sick via the updates she received from his team of physicians and nurses.
“It was a very stressful time,” she says. “Things were not looking good. It was extra hard to keep myself together and keep a happy face for the children. I started to feel hopeless.”
The ‘longest seven minutes of my life’
During the course of his battle with COVID-19, Meadows suffered with pneumonia in both lungs and was twice placed on a mechanical ventilator. At one point after being taken off the ventilator the first time, he went into sudden cardiac arrest.
“It took us seven minutes to get him back,” said Lucas Lambert, a nurse in the critical care unit at Tidelands Georgetown who cared for Meadows. “It was the longest seven minutes of my life. And to see he has no deficits speaks to his resiliency.”
Tidelands Health pulmonologist Dr. Thomas Chandler, who led the multidisciplinary team that cared for Meadows, says his battle demonstrates how unpredictable – and devastating – COVID-19 can be.
“It’s not uncommon for patients to begin to make progress only for their condition to deteriorate again,” says Dr. Chandler, vice chief of the Tidelands Health medical staff and a member of the Tidelands Health board of trustees. “Fortunately, in Mr. Meadows’ case, he pulled through, but sadly that’s not the case for everyone.
“Sometimes, despite receiving the best possible treatment, people don’t make it, which is why it’s so critical for our community to take this virus seriously.”
Eventually, after a second stint on a ventilator, Meadows turned the corner, though his battle with COVID-19 left him weak and unable to walk.
He was released from Tidelands Georgetown in late July and headed to Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital at Little River, an affiliate of Encompass Health, where he spent about week working to regain the strength in his legs.
“The only effect I had when I got out was that I felt a little fatigued,” he says. “I had to build my stamina back up. All I wanted to do was lay around.”
After his release from the rehabilitation hospital, Maurice continued to work rebuilding his strength and mobility at home. After about a month, he was able to return to work. He credits the medical care he received at both Tidelands Georgetown and Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital with helping him recover.
“I love the care there,” he says about both hospitals, offering special thanks to Dr. Chandler, Lambert and fellow nurses Ava Thompson, Ashley Griffith and Jon-Allen Wilson, who cared for him at Tidelands Georgetown. “The care was awesome, and the staff treated me like I was their child.”
Griffith says Meadows was a fighter.
“I remember times when we were very worried about him,” Griffith says. “When he came off that ventilator a second time, we were all excited. It was like a roller coaster of emotions.”
Caring for COVID-19 patients can be emotionally and physically draining, Griffith added.
“The hardest part is seeing the families unable to be with their family member who’s sick,” she says.
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Instead, physicians and nurses serve as a conduit of information for family members and help support patients’ emotional needs, too.
Ranee Stephens Pender, director of the critical care unit at Tidelands Georgetown, says nurses on the unit have worked tirelessly, often picking up extra shifts to meet the needs of patients and the community.
“I am incredibly proud of the critical care nurses and other team members working on the front lines during COVID-19 pandemic,” she says. “My team is strong, brave and resilient. Even with all the stressors that COVID-19 has brought, we’ve seen many favorable outcomes. That’s so inspiring and motivates us to keep doing what we’re doing.”
A changed man
Before his diagnosis, Meadows says he didn’t fear COVID-19, but took precautions to protect himself and his family from infection. He never imagined he’d get so sick from the virus.
“At first, I really didn’t pay much attention to it,” he says. “I wasn’t paranoid about catching it.”
Since nearly losing his life to COVID-19, he says it has changed his perspective about infectious diseases like influenza. Although he’s gotten a flu shot sporadically in the past, he’s planning to get one from now on because of what’s he’s been through.
“It’s changed me,” he says. “I look at it a lot different now. I get nervous just being around a lot of people. You can’t take this virus lightly.”