I thought I had a touch of bronchitis on Nov. 12. My wife, Patricia, gave me some horseradish to smell on Friday, and I couldn’t smell it. The bronchitis was a little worse, so I went into a walk-in clinic where they gave me a rapid COVID-19 test – it came back positive.

I immediately headed home to recover for a few days thinking given that I was in good shape and really had no preexisting conditions. I have never been sick, and my wife and twins both had COVID-19 in July with no symptoms. I tested negative then.

But I didn’t feel better. I couldn’t eat anything. I could not get comfortable trying to sleep. My breathing became more labored and walking to the bathroom started to really wind me. Patricia bought an oxygen meter for my finger and my oxygen levels steadily decreased, dropping to 92.  Patricia started to suggest I should go to the ER, but I was reluctant, thinking surely this would turn around. 

The oxygen level dropped to 90, and Patricia shared with me an email exchange she had with Sumner Regional Medical Center CEO Susan Peach, (advising) to get me in for an assessment.

I was quickly admitted and met with Dr. Kevin Childers. He examined my lungs, taking X-Rays and an MRI that showed I had had extensive pneumonia in both lungs.  

He suggested that COVID-19 had weakened my immune system and that I might have a bacterial lung infection (and) immediately started treatment with a combination of IV drugs.

I continued to have trouble breathing, even as they increased my oxygen treatment levels to 11 liters and put a full mask on me. They (moved) me to the isolation critical care unit. Working with my brother Dan (a doctor) and Patricia, they explored other options, including a treatment option with an ECMO machine. This an aggressive form of life support that pumps blood out of the body, oxygenates it and returns it to the body. 

Anxiety started to overtake me. Fortunately, my isolation unit nurse saw my distress and said some combination of the drugs being pumped into the multiple IV ports would start working.

Things started improving, and once I could maintain my oxygen levels, they released me to go home on Nov. 23.

I continued to improve. I know I have much to be thankful for and I promise to keep the promises I made to the Lord if he would pull me through. I am extremely thankful and proud for the wonderful asset this community has in the Sumner Regional, Dr. Childress, Dr. Matt King, Mrs. Peach, the nursing staff who have developed a COVID-19 care ward as good as can be found.

My advice — stay safe, don’t think COVID-19 is not serious, social distance, wear your masks, but if you develop COVID-19 and breathing problems, get to the ER ASAP so they can get you on a path to recovery. 

I cannot express enough my deep gratitude for my many friends, work colleagues and family who have been so supportive in their calls, emails and texts.  A special thanks to my stepmom, Wilma Phillips, who sent words of encouragement and love every day and fielded an onslaught of inquiries for me. 

George Phillips is a Hendersonville resident and attorney.

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