“I thought it was my sinuses, maybe allergies but never did I think it was COVID-19 and would change my life the way it did” recalls Regina Wright. Wright’s life-changing ordeal began in March with just a cough. “I just knew it was my sinuses so I began taking sinus and allergy pills.”
This was only the beginning, however. After three days the cough grew more intense.
“I thought maybe I need some Mucinex, and then it got so bad I could not hold down any food,” said Wright. “I took my temperature on the third day and it was 101.8 so my sister insisted on taking me to the emergency room here in Clarendon.”
At this point, Wright still believed that she only had a bad cold and that it would just have to pass on its own.
“I really still believed that at worst I had a bad cold,” said Wright. “Once at the E.R. many test were performed and I was diagnosed with double pneumonia.”
At this point, both of her lungs were filled with fluid. As a precaution and to help ease her mind Wright was given a COVID-19 test as well. The test results were not as she had hoped.
“Once I tested positive the next few days were like a whirlwind,” said Wright. “I remember the doctor telling me that we had some decisions to make.”
The doctors informed Wright that she could voluntarily be put on a ventilator (a machine that provides mechanical breathing by moving air in and out of the lungs while a patient can rest and try and recover) or they could wait until her lungs gave out and there would be no other choice but to put her on the ventilator.
“I was scared, really scared,” said Wright. “When I hear the word ventilator the first thing that came to my mind was: 'I am about to die'. The doctor was very matter-of-fact: he said the choice is completely yours but with both lungs full of fluid eventually we will need to put you on this machine.”
Wrights' next step was to call her mother, filled with the fear that she wouldn’t be able to face this disease.
“I was still thinking of being on life support and I called my mom and asked her what should I do,” said Wright. “I remember her asking me how I felt and all I could tell her was ‘mom I can’t breathe’ and she said ‘if you can’t breathe you have to do what you have to do to fix it.’”
Wright was transported to McLeod in Florence. During this time, Wright doesn’t remember much.
“I don’t remember anything after that, I was out for the transportation, but two weeks later I woke up in a strange place,” said Wright. “I looked around and saw no familiar faces I really thought I was dreaming.”
Wright woke in a state of shock with no recollection of how or where she was.
“I soon realized I could not talk and my hands were tied down.” Said Wright. “I was petrified. The first thing I looked at was the empty chair beside me and wanted to know was if I am in the hospital, where is my mama?”
The nurses quickly tried to comfort Wright and began to explain to her she had contracted the Coronavirus and was in the Intensive Care Unit of McLeod Hospital in Florence. The nurses also explained that due to the current pandemic no visitors were allowed but that Wright’s mother had called every day, several times a day.
“I didn’t believe her,” said Wright. “I still thought I was dreaming. I couldn’t talk to her and my hands were still bound.”
Wright wasn’t used to the atmosphere that hospitals had changed to during the pandemic. Hazmat suits and excessive PPE have become the new norm for health care facilities.
“Everyone looked the same, all the doctors and nurses, they all looked like astronauts coming in and out of the room,” said Wright. “Aside from height and skin color I really couldn’t tell who was who.”
Eventually, Wright was allowed a phone call. Specifically, a FaceTime through a zip lock bag.
“One of the nurses put her phone in a zip lock bag for me and I was able to FaceTime my mom,” said Wright.
Soon after, she was taken off of the ventilator. However, there were things she still had to deal with.
“When I was taken off the ventilator I was slurring my words, and I couldn’t move my arms or my legs, only my toes” said Wright. “I was so grateful to that nurse and so overwhelmed to be able to finally see my mother and my family. I remember asking my mom what was going on, I went from being a functioning adult to not even being able to feed myself.”
Sometimes a patient on a ventilator muscles will go dormant. Wright has had to attend a physical rehabilitation facility to regain all of her muscle usages.
Unknown to Wright at the time but several days after her diagnosis her father David Wright was diagnosed with COVID-19 as well and on the same floor of the hospital as she was a few doors down. Sadly Mr. Wright did not beat the disease and passed away after forty days in the hospital at the age of 67.
“My dad couldn’t talk or see us but as a family we did a virtual visit and our voices were the last he heard,” said Wright. “They made him comfortable and as they removed the ventilator we were all telling him how much we loved him. My mom sang to him and I told him if you don’t have to go we will take care of you but if you have to go we will miss you.”
Mr. Wright breathed about five minutes on his own after the ventilator was removed. Wright was unable to attend her father's funeral as she was still sick and in the hospital. During her ordeal Wright’s kidneys also shut down and she had to begin dialysis but on Friday May 22nd she was released from dialysis with fully functioning kidneys again.
“My advice is to take this seriously and get tested,” said Wright. “I wish I had gotten tested sooner, and as soon as you feel like you have something off get tested.
Wright fully understands the seriousness of this ordeal and knows that she is one in a million.
“My doctor told me that I at that time was the only patient to leave the COVID floor, not in a body bag,” said Wright. “This is a serious sickness, take it as serious as they are telling us to, I was healthy and it almost took my life.”
Wright was admitted to the hospital on March 24th and released on May 18th spending over fifty days in the hospital fighting for her life.
For more information on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 please visit www.cdc.gov