Our COVID Journey


Preacher’s Point
By Pastor Timothy Johnson

My wife Julie, my daughter Jennifer, and I tested positive for COVID on the same day. An extended family member tested positive three days before. I’ll call her Sue, to maintain her family’s privacy,

Julie woke up on Monday, Aug. 23, with what she thought at the time was a sinus infection. Something she has had a hundred times over the years; a stuffy head and pain around the eyes. Julie did not think it was severe yet took precautions. She went to work, wore a mask, and isolated herself in her office. The same day, Sue tested positive. I will note here that we had not seen Sue since the fourth of July.

Tuesday was a scheduled off day from work for Julie. Her health was slightly worse. COVID was in the back of our minds, but at this point, there was nothing to indicate it was more than sinus trouble or a head cold. Then came Wednesday.

Julie woke up coughing; congestion in the throat. She stayed home from work. She seemed more tired than usual.

My Wednesday was possibly the weirdest day of my life. So far in this experience, I had no signs of illness at all. Wednesday morning, I was fine, but my strength seemed to seep from me as Wednesday rolled along. It reminded me of Clark Kent with a tiny piece of kryptonite in the corner.

We have Wednesday night church services. About two hours before the start of services, I told Julie I did not have the strength to do church. We canceled services. I have been a pastor for thirty-four years; I have pastored at Countryside since 1995. Before now, I could count on one hand the number of services I have missed because of illness. Julie asked me if I would do something online, but I told her I did not believe I had the strength to talk for a half-hour. By bedtime Wednesday, Julie was congested in the head with mucus in the throat. I had no other symptoms, but I had never felt so weak in my life.

Thursday and Friday were heartbreaking.

Thursday, we went to a testing site; both Julie and I tested positive. The result was emotionally rough, not because of COVID, but because Rodger, a good friend, and an original member of Countryside, passed away the previous Friday. His funeral was the next day. I was Rodger’s pastor for nearly 30 years. It was a phone call filled with tears when I called his family and told them I could not be involved with the funeral.

We called our four children and informed them. The call to the kids started a parade of family and friends dropping food and supplies on our porch, knocking, and running away.

Meanwhile, our youngest child, Jennifer (36 years old), suffered from similar, but not as severe, symptoms as Julie. She also goes for testing. She also tests positive.

When Friday rolled around, I started a cough. Congestion in the chest and head. I watched the clock, thinking of Rodger’s family. They were sheep in the flock God has given me. I should be there to help them, pray with them, hug them, have them cry on my shoulder, but I could not leave home. As the clock ticked, I could only think of them and how difficult breathing was getting.

Other than my amazement growing about how little energy I had, Saturday was uneventful.

As the clock ticked Sunday, Julie gradually grew worse. We have an oxygen reader, and her O2 level dropped into the highs 80s and remained there for two hours. I called the doctor, and he told me to take Julie to the ER. After three hours, the news came Julie would be admitted to the hospital. The hospital’s protocol with COVID patients is no visitors. I drove home.

On another note — Sue was admitted into a different hospital the same day as Julie.

Because of the lack of beds, Julie stayed in the ER for 36 hours before moving to a room. She was placed in progressive care (the rooms for those with needs worse than a standard room but not as bad as intensive care).

Julie spent eight days in the hospital. Her first night in a room, they attempted to put her on a Bipap machine. Julie has always been claustrophobic and having something on her face was terrifying for her. The following day, a nurse explained that her condition would likely grow worse if she did not use the Bipap. The next step would be to sedate her and place her on a ventilator.

They gave her medication to calm her nerves, and the next night, she used the Bipap machine.

Meanwhile, I am home alone. Food and other items were still being dropped off at my door by family and friends. It took every ounce of energy I had to get the stuff inside and put it away. One would think I would be watching a lot of TV and reading a bunch, but I did not have the strength or mental fortitude to read, and I only had the TV on for an hour or two a day. Mostly I spent my time praying for Julie and reminding myself to breathe.

After a couple of days, Jennifer shows up at my door. My four kids decided that since we both had COVID, Jenn would be the one to check on me. She was not as bad off as I was. Her main symptom was exhaustion. Jennifer was sleeping 18-to-20 hours a day. But, she came every day and just sat with me. We would talk some, but I could not say more than five words without breaking out into a cough.

Toward the end of the week, my mucus was diminishing, and I was not coughing as bad. Strength and energy were still significant issues.

Julie only needed the Bipap for one night. After that, it was continuous use of oxygen. They gave her plasma from someone who had had COVID to give her antibodies to help fight the disease.

After eight days, Julie came home. She has been home a couple of weeks now. She is still on oxygen, but her O2 levels are better, and like me, energy and strength is an issue. The doctors tell us this is normal, and it may be a year before we are back to normal.

I am doing a little more every day. I preached my first sermon Sunday while sitting down. I am hoping, roughly a month from now, I can get back to my schedule of preaching/teaching three times on Sunday and once on Wednesday, but we will see.

Jennifer is back to work and doing fine.

Eventually, Sue needed a ventilator. After four days on the machine, the family decided to remove the ventilator, and she died a few minutes later. As I write this, her funeral is tomorrow.

COVID is different than anything I have ever seen. When a person survives, the effects from COVID could last weeks, months, even the rest of a person’s life. My son Josh had the disease earlier this year. He has permanent lung damage.

God answered my prayers, and my wife is healing. I have so much to be thankful for — The nurse who talked to Julie about the Bipap; whoever donated plasma; those who brought food to my door; everyone who prayed for us, the list is endless.

In my family, in the last month, we have had four cases of COVID. Each of us suffered to different degrees, with one in heaven now.

Please pray as we recover and send up prayers for all those with COVID, their caretakers, and everyone involved.

Preacher Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in northern Parke County, Indiana. Webpage: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com; email: [email protected]; address: 410 S. Jefferson St. Rockville IN 47872; all Bible references KJV. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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