By Amanda Hayes
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have experienced feelings of fear, sadness, and uncertainty. The virus is an unseen enemy that we have battled with disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, and bleach. We wear face masks and use gloves when going out in public. Yet, with all of these precautions, this unseen enemy can still attack and enter our bodies undetected through the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Many of us have not had to worry about facing this enemy on the frontlines of the battle; however, there are countless healthcare workers who have continued to show up for work each day to care for the unfortunate victims who have fallen prey to this frightful pandemic. What happens when one of our healthcare heroes becomes a victim of this unseen adversary? We will delve into the story of one such hero now.
On the morning of April 8, 2020, Debbie Purvis, FNP-C, arrived at CRH Family Medicine to take care of her patients just like she had done many, many times before. Debbie donned her face mask, and routinely had her temperature taken by coworkers. She had noticed what she thought was a minor, dry cough, but had dismissed it as nothing to be concerned about.
When she presented with a low-grade fever once, then twice within a few moments, Debbie knew that something was happening to her body. Tears immediately came to her eyes, fearful that she had contracted the dreaded COVID-19 virus, and would now become a statistic, instead of a caretaker. After calling her spouse to inform him of her symptoms, she visited the drive-through testing site in the parking lot of Coffee Regional Medical Center.
The test results would not come back for days, so Debbie dutifully returned home for self-quarantine. By evening, Debbie was experiencing a much greater degree of symptoms with fever, chills, sore throat, mild cough, and body aches. Tylenol was no match for the high fever and relentless body aches.
After a couple of weeks of experiencing these symptoms, Debbie thought she was on the uphill side of her illness and decided to return to work. Unfortunately, what Debbie did not know was that the virus had attacked her lungs, and she would soon find herself hospitalized with an elevated heart rate and pneumonia. Fear took control of her mind, knowing that there were patients all around her being placed on ventilators, and some patients were succumbing to the illness on a daily basis. Debbie says of her experience, “It is very hard being a patient when you've been on the other side as a nurse or provider. You know just enough to scare yourself. I mean, you know what can happen and it can be very scary.”
She commends the staff at Coffee Regional Medical Center for the excellent care that she received there, and says the nurses were “compassionate and caring.” Staying positive became very difficult, as she was all alone, without her family and friends by her side to keep her focused on her recovery. The second day in the hospital was the worst day emotionally for Debbie throughout her illness, as she became more worried and concerned for her own health, as well as for the health and wellness of her family at home.
Many friends and family members prayed for Debbie’s health, and many of them sent messages and cards, while still others drove to the hospital so that she could see them out of her hospital room window. Soon, she was well enough to be released from the hospital. Her experience taught her many things, and Debbie now has this message for us, “My best advice is to live every day to the fullest, let people know how much they mean, and know where you are headed if today should be your last.”
Debbie has now returned to the frontlines, her passion and concern for others stronger than ever. She would like to encourage others to, “continue to love one another, and be kind because you never know what people are going through. Pay attention to the guidelines and protect those that are most at risk.” And most importantly, she wants to remind us all that, “GOD is still in control.”