UPDATE: Barbara Gauthier’s sister continues to recover from COVID-19

UPDATE: Barbara Gauthier’s sister continues to recover from COVID-19

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Despite the surge in coronavirus cases across the country, people are recovering. WTVM News Leader 9 is continuing to bring you stories of local survivors.

Back in April, WTVM shared with you that Barbara Gauthier’s sister was hospitalized with COVID-19.

She was on a ventilator for 30 days and spent weeks in the hospital before finally going home as a survivor.

Deborah Huling is a healthcare worker who fought for her life. Thousands of viewers sent messages of encouragement and prayed for her recovery.

It was early April when Debbie was admitted to Piedmont Columbus Regional after testing positive for COVID-19. Even though she had no symptoms, she did have underlying health issues and her condition quickly worsened. Within days she was on a ventilator fighting for life.

“I remember the first day being at the hospital and I think I went on the respirator the next day,” said Debbie. “I don’t remember anything about being on the respirator, ventilator.”

For family members, the concern and fear intensified as they weren’t able to see or talk to her. But in June, after more than a month in the hospital followed by two weeks at Phenix City Rehab, Debbie came home.

“I just thank god for everything, because he and all my doctors and prayers and well wishes is what brought me through,” said Debbie.

Though Debbie doesn’t remember much about her hospitalization, a lot happened that she missed during that time, including the birth of her first grandson.

“Elijah was born, I had never seen him,” said Debbie. “I just wanted to get back to them.”

Nearly six months later, recovery is still a struggle. Although most days Debbie says she feels good, she still deals with fatigue, tingling in her hands and overwhelming anxiety.

“I wake up and the first thing I can feel is extremely nervous, and I don’t know what I’m nervous about,” said Debbie. “When I first got home I was afraid to go anywhere. My daughter Amber says momma you’ve got to get out. I have a fear of getting out. I’m nervous, I’m afraid, I social distance, I wear mask, but still. They say you can get it again, I don’t want to.”

Cary Burcham, the Chief Nursing Officer at Piedmont Columbus Regional says Debbie’s story is not unusual. While health experts are still learning about the after effects of COVID-19, he says anxiety is common in many former patients.

“I would say it parallels what I’ve seen and experienced in healthcare from an individual that experiences any kind of severe illness in their life.. you know it changes you and it changes your thought process,” said Burcham.

It has certainly changed Debbie and while she continues to battle the after effects of COVID-19, she holds her grandchildren a little closer now, hopeful and cautious as she looks to the future.

“COVID-19 is no joke... it’s no joke. Anybody can get it and anybody can die from it. It’s easy to catch, it’s easy not to catch if people just social distance and wear a mask,” said Debbie. “I was blessed to come through it and I thank the lord for that but he’s got something planned for me but I don’t want COVID to be part of a plan.”

Debbie and her entire family would like to thank the healthcare workers, as well as all of people who offered prayers and support. It all made a difference.

And she’s reminding everyone especially as we approach the holidays to stay safe, wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands.

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