After 20 days on a ventilator battling COVID-19, her lungs infected and her chance of survival slim, 49-year-old Jeri Hall suddenly started to get better.
When Dr. Eric Trueblood took her off the vent on April 16, he asked his patient if she needed anything. Hall was weak, barely able to speak. The doctor leaned in close.
“Yeah,” Hall whispered in a raspy voice. “Get me out of here.”
Tuesday afternoon, Trueblood stood quietly by as Hall, strapped into a rolling hospital bed, got pushed down a long hallway and out the front door at Monroe Hospital.
About 75 hospital nurses, doctors and staff lined the hallway, applauding as Hall departed. She was headed to a rehabilitation hospital to regain her strength and get back on her feet so she can return to her Owen County farm: fresh air, goats, chickens, a few dogs, a black cat, horses.
Outside, the wind blew open the doors to the medical transport van. Family members and friends had gathered to see her off.
“Love you mama,” her son Ty Robinson called out.
Chief nursing officer Nancy Bakewell said other COVID-19 patients have recovered and left the hospital, but this was a particularly special moment, so unexpected.
Because Trueblood, a critical care lung specialist, had told Hall’s family she likely would die from the coronavirus.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone with acute respiratory distress syndrome this bad who went on and survived it,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
At the darkest moment, he leveled with Ronnie Sue Robinson around midnight about the reality of her mom’s dire condition. “I don’t see how we are going to get her through the night.”
Hall was alive at daybreak, and the medical team continued to try—everything—to save her, including several experimental drugs and turning her face-down, once for two days straight.
“We used all the tricks, everything we could think to do,” he said. “We paralyzed her at one point. We bought her time. And mostly, we didn’t give up.”
There always was a glimmer of hope, and also an agreement with Hall’s family to not take futile measures to save her.
Every time her condition worsened, every time a new drug didn’t work, each time her oxygen levels would plummet—sometimes to 70 percent with the vent going full bore—Hall “would always hang on, sometimes by just a thread.”
Trueblood attributes Hall’s rebound and road to recovery not to the medicines he tried but to the supportive care she received, her immune system and her resolve.
“She is a strong person. And our staff was invested in her,” he said. “Being such a small hospital, I could focus on her. We rode it out.”