OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — We’re nearing the one-year mark of the first COVID-19 cases reported in Kansas and Missouri. For many, coronavirus is a quick illness. But for others, the disease has permanently changed their lives.
June Call is 54, a preschool teacher from Grain Valley. Right now, she’s getting lessons on learning how to walk again.
Call went for a routine MRI at St. Luke’s East on Dec. 12, 2020. A check of her vitals revealed dangerously low oxygen. She tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent to the ER.
“I didn’t even realize I was having problems breathing. I just didn’t. Then boom,” Call said.
Nineteen days on a ventilator followed, then a stint at rehab, where she almost died again. She collapsed and was rushed back to St. Luke’s.
“They saved my life because I didn’t have any idea I had blood clots in my legs, in my chest,” Call said.
She’s made a lot of progress and, after 70 days in the hospital, is finally going home. But Call still can’t walk on her own and will need ongoing therapy.
“It was an awful feeling knowing you go from being so independent, that you can’t do anything for yourself, just awful,” Call said.
Dr. Casey Martinez works with a lot of recovering COVID-19 patients at St. Luke’s South Rehab Institute.
“For some of these folks, this is going to be a life-altering thing. Life as they knew it before COVID is not going to be the same,” said Martinez, who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation at St. Luke’s.
What’s helped Martinez keep pushing are patients like Call, who are determined to bounce back even if life never gets fully back to normal.
“The resilience a lot of these patients have had working through this has been incredible to kind of fight through, and it’s been our pleasure to be able to work with them and try to get them stronger,” Martinez said.
It’s fight that 44-year-old Eric Goodman of Shawnee has shown. FOX4 first introduced you to the married father of two last May. He spent two weeks on a ventilator, then rehab.
At a time when doctors and the public knew little about COVID, he’s lucky to be alive.
“You start to realize, wow, I literally cheated death,” Goodman said.
As he started to regain strength and energy, he took up running. He takes vitamins, eats healthier, and exercises five days a week. He’s up to a half-marathon distance and hopes to get to a full 26 miles by year’s end.
“I guess the big thing I did was try to take the lemons I was given there, find a little sugar, and make some lemonade out of it,” Goodman said.
From patients like Goodman who are now thriving to those still fighting to recover like Call, not to mention the countless health care workers on the front line, the war on COVID-19 continues.
“It’s sound body, sound mind, sound soul, and those three things are what keep me going each day,” Goodman said.
“Love your friends and family because there’s no guarantee for tomorrow,” Call said.
All of them are finding valuable life lessons during a difficult year.
“I’m blessed to be able to get up and come into work and help folks work through these things and just be incredibly thankful for each day,” Martinez said.