(WJHL) — The number of people who have died from COVID-19 this year in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia will approach 1,900 based on health department data.
When factoring in the 96,000-plus confirmed cases reported by health departments this year, about 1.9% of the people who contracted the virus in our region did not survive.
While our reporting this year chronicled the deadly impact of the virus, we also looked for opportunities to share stories of survival.
Doctors said all year long that many of the patients whose conditions worsened to the point they needed critical care in a COVID-19 unit would not survive. But thanks to the hard work of many health care professionals, many of them did.
Among the survivors: Mountain City pastor Jerry Davis, who left the hospital in February after he nearly died from COVID-19.
“I thank the good Lord Almighty and lift him up and thank him for saving us through all this sickness,” Davis said. “He ain’t through yet.”
In October, John Mabe went home in Greeneville from the hospital after 22 days in the COVID unit and 12 days on a ventilator.
“You hear the stories, one out of two survive it,” Mabe said. “You don’t hear anything positive.”
Travis Sampson has a reputation for being a survivor. A school resource officer and former contestant on the Survivor reality show, Sampson nearly died from COVID-19 complications. He spent a month in a Kingsport hospital and eight days on a ventilator.
“If what I went through is not enough to get people to get the vaccine, then me posting my opinion on Facebook isn’t going to change anyone’s mind,” Sampson said.
At Ballad Health hospitals, discharge day came to be known as the “victory walk” for patients who managed to survive after receiving long-term care for COVID-19 complications.
After spending 44 days on a ventilator, 17-year-old Connor Begley got to experience the victory walk as he departed Niswonger Children’s Hospital with a long road to recovery left ahead of him.
And as recently as last week, a reminder of the power of friendship to heal in a way medicine alone can not — Jackson Randall, a UPS driver from Johnson City, was on the mend at Quillen Rehab Hospital after battling COVID-19. His friends organized a truck parade which he watched from his hospital room.