Merry Christmas, Marshall, Texas! I owe my deepest gratitude to friends and family here and throughout East Texas for their outpouring of support as I’ve dealt with recovery from a serious bout with COVID-19 pneumonia. It has brought me extreme comfort during this very difficult time to hear from you and receive your thoughts and prayers. My family and I thank you. Love is so powerful. I pray others going through this are getting support too. It’s a big deal to know others care and shows me our community’s true colors.

I’ve heard the anecdotal stories of COVID-19 not being that bad or being comparable to the flu with younger people. That may be true in some cases and if so, it is fortunate. In my case, it is was not true. This has been a terrible and frightening experience. It has not been simple.

One minute I felt a little difficulty breathing. Within a few hours, my lungs were closing in on me. I could no longer stand up and walk around without losing 20 points on my oximeter. The was no air to breathe because it was being blocked by heavy inflammation inside my lungs. I was beginning to cough out pink fluids and blood. Just moving my body to the side 12 inches caused a coughing fit so bad that I couldn’t breathe in or spit out the blockage. I was gasping for breath and trying not to choke on what were now viscous bloody mucous plugs my lungs were becoming inflamed and infested with.

It was like breathing through a day-old banana milkshake or through a very wet batch of your kid’s homemade slime project. This continued for about 20 hours for me as I sat on an ER gurney bed in triage, fighting to breathe and waiting to get picked for a hospital bed. The beds were full, and the wait was what it was. There were and still are plenty of sicker priorities ahead of 40-something year-olds.

At times it felt like I was trying to breath out of a 2-inch box. I would lose oxygen and then spend the next five frantic minutes trying to get it back to normal with concentrated breathing and attempts not to panic.

When you can’t breathe, your reactions go primal. Involuntarily you gasp to squeeze that last bit of oxygen into your system so you can live. Everything else around you is white noise.

Once I got that breath and several more, I created a mental picture of my Gaby, Grace and Dinora to add resoluteness. They were standing on a line. My focus was to keep that line level and centered with balanced breathing. “Fight the good fight,” I heard the doctor say as she passed my curtained ER stall. Several hours later I heard a nurse excitedly say “We have a room for No. 26”.

The rest of the story was a five-day struggle with treatments including plasma, Remdesivir, steroids, blood thinners, IVs, breathing treatments and an assortment of other meds and tests for my road to recovery. It was not easy, but I was treated by some of the finest healthcare workers I could ever ask for, many local and many from traveling nurse organizations. They saved me like they are saving people across our nation.

I pray you don’t ever experience this. If you are feeling thankful and giving this holiday, think about wearing a mask for the overextended healthcare workers who are putting themselves on the line for people like you and me. They fight for you. Fight for them! I would not have survived without them.

Be thankful for your loved ones. Think about their futures and the small calls to sacrifice we can make now to get through this as a community. If nothing else, be selfish! Wear a mask and think about yourself. If you don’t have to experience this disease, you’ll have this a much merrier Christmas.

— Rush Harris, Marshall

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