Steve Eighinger Column Sig

I’ll be completely honest. In fact, painfully honest.

There was a time when I felt all of the hype surrounding COVID-19 was exaggerated.

I was wrong.

The coronavirus is the real deal, not a figment of someone’s imagination. Granted, it affects those it infects in many different fashions, ranging from mild symptoms to the complete, opposite end of the medical spectrum.

I returned to work this week after spending more than a month recovering, at the hospital and at home. Much of that time was not pleasant. In fact, many days were quite challenging.

During that period, I gained an entirely new level of respect for the nurses, doctors and other caregivers at Blessing Hospital and Quincy Medical Group. Each and every one who treated me was marvelous at what they do and helped me through a period of great uncertainty.

When my wife, Kathy, took me to the emergency room shortly after midnight early in October, rarely had I ever felt worse in my life. Those same nurses, doctors and other caregivers immediately set me on a journey toward healing — and then recovery — that continues today.

I was scared, and I readily admit it. Never before in my life had I been placed on oxygen or had so many wires and needles connected to my body.

I will always remember one of the nurses, who over the course of my stay I became friends with through our daily conversations. I will also never forget the toll this virus has taken on her, and numerous others just like her. She told me there were many nights when she would leave the hospital crying, worried that some of those she was caring for would not be there by the time she returned.

When I was well enough to be able to move around on my own, my doctor encouraged me to walk a nearby hallway several times a day. While I knew I was in the midst of one of the COVID units, where I was did not truly sink in until I saw some of the other patients who were struggling far worse than I was (or had been).

In a way, those walks served as the ultimate wake-up call. I knew how horrible I had felt, so it was almost unfathomable to imagine some of the ongoing struggles I witnessed.

Normally, I consider myself an upbeat person. My glass is always half full. But the day I was able to leave the hospital, after being wheeled to the car where Kathy was waiting for me, I had barely fastened my seat belt when the tears started flowing.

Although I’m certain she knew, Kathy asked what was wrong. I tried to explain it was a combination of relief for being able to go home, plus the memories from what I had experienced, particularly of those individuals I would see on my walks during my final days in the hospital.

During that recovery time at home, one of our neighbors died from COVID-19. She was a marvelous lady with whom I had worked and gotten to know in recent years. She fought valiantly for more than a month, but in the end her body fell victim to this terrible virus.

In recent days, I have watched family members come and go at her house, helping her husband with a wide variety of needs during this tragic time.

There remains a yellow ribbon tied around a tree in the family’s front yard, in her honor.

That yellow ribbon serves as a daily reminder that, yes, this virus is real. Very, very real.

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