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A life-changing experience… EHS educator shares his battle with COVID variant

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Like many teachers, Alex Campbell was preparing to kick off a new school year with what he hoped would be a complete 180 degrees from the 2020 school year where teachers and students alike were hidden behind masks trying to avoid being infected with the COVID virus.

However, things quickly turned for Campbell who was someone who was as healthy as a horse lifting weights and exercising daily and providing columns to the Star called Brains and Brawn sharing stories of those who have made weightlifting local folklore.

“My wife got it a couple of days before me and she got double pneumonia and respiratory infection and all this and she did the COVID test because she felt like she had it,” shared Campbell on Monday reflecting back on a tumultuous four weeks. “All I had was like a scratchy throat and stuff – I just felt different.

“So, I told her I was going to go and get a rapid test and it came back positive. Our boys got sick about the same time so all four of us had it at the same time.

“At first, I was eating but after two days the body aches, the headaches, my eyes, my neck, just something like I had never had before,” Campbell continued. “I also had nausea but never threw up. I just didn’t feel like eating or drinking or anything but I made myself because I knew I needed to eat and drink.

“It got to the foods that I could eat like chicken noodle soup and applesauce – I just got tired of it So I decided I would just drink to stay hydrated so I went through Gatorade and Pedialyte which tasted like a melted sucker. I had people that brought me different flavors.”

So the days slowly crept by – one, two, three, and then it was day eight and still no change for Campbell who knew that he wasn’t improving and decided to seek medical help.

“I went to the emergency room on a Friday, 10 days after I got it and the doctor gave me a shot and something for nausea. So I went home and just got all down,” Campbell stated.

“They talk about COVID brain and COVID fog and I got to the point that I just thought I would quit drinking because what’s the point. That is when Brittney (wife) put it on Facebook requesting prayer for me because I needed it because I was just feeling awful. I remember just sitting in the chair crying and just sitting there and Brittney asked me what was wrong and I was like I don’t know. I think that my body is done.

“A couple of days later, Brittney checked my oxygen and it was like 77. I didn’t know it but a friend of mine that works at the hospital said my intake level showed I was breathing 45 times a minute and now I know why because my lungs were collapsed and I couldn’t expand them.

“I would have never had thought that I would have had a collapsed lung because I thought that was something you got from a car wreck or from being shot. I didn’t cough, I didn’t rattle, nothing burned, nothing hurt – it was just really silent. I never thought that I would have two collapsed lungs and pneumonia.”

Campbell said it was tough just getting to the Emergency Room to seek treatment as the protocol for visiting the hospital required wearing a face mask.

For someone already struggling for breath, it was the last thing that Campbell wanted to hear.

“The first time I went to the Emergency Room, they made me wear a mask and I was almost smothered by the time I got back to the room,” Campbell recollected. “The second time I went, I went to the Johnson City Medical Center because I felt the same way.

“When they brought me back to triage, I told the woman that I was going to pass out and she told me to look at her and I remember telling her that I couldn’t see her and she was like let’s get this guy a room. When I called the first time, they told me they didn’t have a bed in 21 counties but they found me a bed somewhere.

“The doctor told me that he couldn’t let me go home because I couldn’t open my eyes. He said that they would give me some IV antibiotics and a little fluid since I hadn’t been eating or drinking to get that straightened out. I had never been in a hospital or even had an IV or anything.”

That’s when the prayers really began ringing the bells of Heaven on Campbell’s behalf as social media had spread the word asking for a prayer of healing for Campbell.

He said that he remembered getting messages from people that he didn’t even know letting him know that he was being lifted up by that person and their church.

It was the fervent prayers of family, friends, and complete strangers along with his church family that began to turn the tide for Campbell.

“People were praying for me and sending me encouraging songs and I had church over there in the COVID ward on Sunday morning just me and the Lord,” Campbell reflected.

“You just get so down. It’s like you just don’t want to try. I didn’t have it as bad as other people, but you do get down wondering if you are ever going to get better.”

Then before Campbell knew it, the first day of school was at hand and his emotions took another turn thinking about the kids that he wouldn’t be in school for as the new year began.

“I had a lot of guilt like what kind of loser teacher am I not to even show up for the first week of school,” Campbell said. “I could just imagine kids going home and their parents asking them how their first day was and them telling their parents well we didn’t even have a teacher. The first week and our teacher hadn’t even been there.

“I felt so bad that it isn’t these kid’s fault. They deserve to have a good education and I asked them to bring me my laptop Friday before school started and I would try to put something on Canvas but I was so sick I didn’t even feel like putting anything on there for them.

“I felt like the worst teacher in the world that whole week. That first week teachers come back is very important because they actually do a lot of work.”

Campbell did not receive the vaccination prior to becoming sick. He said that he had done his own personal research and by the numbers, he felt that it was either take a shot and feel bad for a few short days or not take the vaccine and if the COVID was contacted then the same would apply in regards to being sick a few days and then get better.

However, Campbell in hindsight wished that he had gone ahead and taken the vaccination especially after the episode with the Delta Variant which was completely different from the Alpha variant in 2020.

“That’s one thing that gets me. People slam people about getting the vaccine and if they want to take it or not but the media doesn’t really put out good information,” said Campbell.

“You turn on the news and for the COVID update, its how many illegal immigrants that came in tested positive for COVID or Desantis and the President is in a tiff about wearing masks but it doesn’t tell you what the difference is between the Alpha and the Delta. They don’t say that it’s affecting more younger people and healthy people – they don’t tell you any of that. All they do is play politics with it and I feel like if they would just tell people.

“Delta is different and it affects people differently,” Campbell continued. “One of those vaccines is now down to 40 percent effectiveness and it was 98 percent at one time so it’s down to 40 in just six months.

“They say it won’t keep you from getting it or from giving it to people – the only hope is that it may make it a little bit less so why take the vaccine. I am going to be honest, if it was 10 percent less than what I dealt with, it would have been worth it to me because I felt so bad.”

Looking back, Campbell could only speak of how people came to give from their hearts in helping his family make it through one of the most trying times he could remember.

From food to help his children have something nourishing to eat to the preacher and deacon from his home church mowing his lawn and weed eating, Campbell felt exceedingly blessed during his illness.

And being the history teacher he is, he couldn’t help but share the following story.

“Chief Joseph was a great chief out in the plains and they took him to Montreal one time and it was the biggest city he had ever seen and they were showing what everything was. They got to this big building and Chief Joseph said that was the biggest house that he have ever seen. He said what would a white man ever need with a house like that,” expounding Campbell.

“They said that is not a house it’s a bank and he said what is a bank – we don’t have banks. They told the chief that a bank is a place where if you have too much you can put it in a bank and if you need it back, they give it back to you with interest.

“He said Indians don’t have need of banks because if we have too much we give it away to everybody else and if we ever need it back, they give it back to us with interest.”

Campbell concluded by saying, “It’s just so powerful to see it all come back with interest when we try to do the right thing in life.”