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Reflecting on recovery: Coronavirus patient on the mend after 6-week hospital stay

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ROCKY MOUNT — Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Nash UNC Health Care is celebrating “Care for the Caregiver” throughout the month of September, honoring its employees for their tireless efforts and reflecting on the stories of patients who overcame difficult battles with the virus.  

In early June, a 38-year-old Nash County mother, Adrienne Burns, was discharged from Nash UNC Health Care after spending 43 days in the hospital while receiving treatment for COVID-19.

Burns came to the emergency department at the recommendation of her doctor, where she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed on a ventilator in the critical care unit. Reflecting on her time in the hospital, she recalled how hard it was to remain positive.

“The first two weeks is still a blur. I don’t remember any of it,” she said. “It was lonely, but with the help of my family, my support system, prayer and faith, I was able to get through it.”

Once Burns was able to get off the ventilator, she was moved to the second floor of Nash General Hospital, the designated COVID-19 unit for medically stable patients. Because of the length of time Burns was on a ventilator, she required extensive physical therapy at the Bryant T. Aldridge Rehab Center (an inpatient rehabilitation facility within the Nash UNC system) to rebuild her strength and ability to walk.

Burns recalled how supportive the BTAR staff was.

“I love the rehab staff and wish I could go back and see them,” Burns said. “When I left, it was a bittersweet moment. I was glad to have survived and be able to go home, but I had bonded with some of the staff there and developed some really good friendships. They were like family.”

Burns was only at the rehab center for eight days, but said she was impressed with the way the staff members went out of their way to support her.

“I love the atmosphere and the environment. At BTAR, you know they cared and they wanted you to succeed,” she said. “Miss Brandy, she made me laugh and she just made sure that I was on top of my stuff and held me accountable for getting better and doing whatever I needed to do to get out of the hospital. Jordan is amazing, she did my therapy and she cracked me up when she tried to do the wobble.”

She said one particular instance with a staff member named Marcia stood out to her the most.

“It was one of those days where I was feeling down and I just wanted to go home during my therapy and she prayed for me,” Burns recalled. “Even the day I was leaving, she made sure she came and saw me and she prayed for me before I left. I have never been in an environment, even with something like this, where I had someone that went above and beyond and prayed and believed everything was going to be OK.” 

Upon her discharge, Burns requested to celebrate by doing the wobble, a popular dance that came about in 2008, and said it was a moment she will never forget. Various staff members who’d cared for Burns throughout her stay gathered to do the wobble with her as she left the facility to go home.

“It made me feel really appreciated, it made me feel good,” she said.

Since being discharged from the hospital, Burns said she is still recovering, but is feeling back to normal. 

“I am doing really good; my recovery is really good. I still have a raspy and hoarse voice from the ventilator tubes and I am still being seen for that, but I am back at work,” said Burns. “I haven’t missed a beat, really. Everybody’s asking me ‘How you doing, how you feeling, are you OK?’ and I’m looking at them like ‘I’m fine, I’m back to my old self.’”

Just a few weeks ago, Burns said she was able to enjoy a family vacation. 

“I went on vacation to Florida and it was so needed! I was able to relax, rest and be refreshed and just enjoy the warm weather. We had a good time —  it’s just so good to be with family, and it meant a lot,” said Burns.

Though Burns has won her battle with COVID-19, she has a message for the health care workers still on the front lines during the pandemic. 

“Just keep doing what you are doing, we need you guys. Do your job and do your job well, because you are what makes the difference.”