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A long road back in COVID-19 recovery for Springfield fitness trainer

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 7:46 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 7:57 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Four months after he became ill from COVID-19, Tim Thompson still battling the after-effects.

Thompson, a 42-year-old fitness trainer in Springfield, got hit hard by COVID-19, despite being young and in good health.

While older patients are the most likely to experience lingering COVID-19 symptoms, even young and otherwise healthy people can deal with post-virus effects weeks or even months after becoming ill. Thompson is an example of that.

In November, the lead fitness trainer at the Genesis Health Club in south Springfield didn’t feel quite right but thought it was nothing serious. But the married father of one daughter who made his living promoting healthy bodies ended up in the hospital after it became difficult to breathe.

“It was pretty dramatic,” Thompson said of the increasingly difficult time he had doing something he’d always taken for granted. “It felt like I was breathing through a little straw.”

“It sounded like he was drowning,” Tim’s wife, Jessica, said of his labored breathing. “It was like he was under water.”

“Another thing was severe pain which I’m still having up to this day,” Tim added. “Pain in the neck and some of my joints.”

For the first 21 days of Tim’s hospital stay, Jessica was not allowed to be at his side.

“I was looking at him through glass every day,” she said.

Tim was sedated for much of that time.

“A real feeling of being alone and scared,” he said.

After camping out in the waiting area, Jessica was eventually granted access to her husband’s room and kept friends and family updated on Facebook where she told of his severe pneumonia, times when she would be rushed out of his room because he had crashed and doctors telling her there wasn’t much hope for a successful outcome.

“They made sure not to give me too much hope because they were worried about multi-organ failure,” Jessica said. “They were expecting his heart to go and then his kidneys to go.”

In the middle of all that emotional turmoil one day Jessica was approached in the hospital’s waiting room by a man who asked her what she was there for.

“I told him about my husband Tim and his fight with COVID-19,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “He proceeded to tell me that it was a hoax. COVID isn’t real and they were lying to me about my husband being sick. So this, my friends, is for all who question or doubt the legitimacy of this illness. Please hold your loved ones close and never stop praying because I am trapped in my own personal Hell.”

It was not what Jessica needed to hear at the time.

“It took everything I had to keep my grace and composure,” she said.

Tim spent two-and-a-half months in the hospital and lost almost 70 pounds. He spent 31 days on an ECMO machine, a last-resort for COVID-19 patients after ventilators don’t work that pumps blood out of the body, puts oxygen in it, and pumps it back in.

“It was what saved his life,” Jessica pointed out. “Without that I don’t know if he would be with me right now.”

The whole experience was also difficult for Tim’s daughter Isabelle.

“It was really scary and I’d get really emotional because I couldn’t go see him,” she said. “So it was just me and my dog at home.”

Tim left Mercy’s COVID unit on Christmas Eve and left hospital care for good in late January. He’s now going through rehab and still on oxygen, asking doctors when his lungs will get back to normal.

“They don’t know,” he said. “They said it could be up to a year or...never.”

But Tim is doing his best to get well enough to return to work.

“You can get through it if you have the faith and the fight,” Tim said. “But the idea that this ain’t gonna happen to me is not always true. That’s the mentality a lot of people have such as myself. So cherish every day, love your family and be grateful for everything you have because it’s not a given.”

“It could have gone in a completely different way,” Jessica said. “I think we are blessed. I didn’t know how serious it was until it hit our family to realize this is a big deal. I don’t want anyone to ever go through what we did. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So if we can shed some light on how serious this is, I hope we can help someone else prevent this from happening to their family.”

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