PORTAGE, Mich. — Whenever Nancy Blodgett needs to get her mail, she grabs her walker, heads out of the front door and walks several feet down her driveway to her mailbox located next to the street.
Blodgett then puts the mail on the seat of the walker and slowly walks back to her house.
“Going back up is the hardest part,” Blodgett said on Monday. “It’s a little hill.”
Blodgett is 55-years-old and never needed to use a walker before, she said.
That was until recently when she left Mary Free Bed hospital in Grand Rapids after recovering from COVID-19 in April.
“Now it’s just trying to strengthen my lungs, trying to strengthen my body so that I can get back to some sort of new normal,” Blodgett said during an interview with FOX 17. “It’s just a day-by-day process. Some days I’m stronger than others. But I’m getting there. I’m definitely getting there.”
Blodgett said her road to recovery has been a long one.
She said she was diagnosed with the virus on March 26 after she had been feeling flu-like symptoms for almost a week.
“And March 26, it was a Thursday, I woke up and called the triage nurse and said ‘I can’t breathe,’” Blodgett remembered. “And they said ‘get to the ER as fast you can, however you can.’ So I drove myself but I don’t recall the drive.”
Blodgett said she doesn’t remember being at the Bronson hospital. She doesn’t remember being intubated. She only remembers seeing people with masks and shields on, and feeling scared.
“There was a couple times when I was intubated that I was literally knocking on death’s door,” Blodegtt said. “I didn’t know that until my doctor told me that. But, that scared a lot of my family and friends.”
Blodgett remained in the hospital until April 17, she said. Immediately she was was ready to go home. However, she went to Mary Free Bed because her muscles weakened.
“My legs felt like jello,” Blodgett recalled. “When I woke up, when I went to get up, I couldn’t walk. I just wasn’t strong enough. I said ‘this shouldn’t be this hard.’”
However, it was.
Blodgett worked with a team of nurses, doctors and therapists to regain her stability.
“She’s fantastic and a really gracious person,” said Dr. Ralph Wang of Mary Free Bed about Blodgett. “I think like in most people’s case, we work a lot with walking and endurance. And, our physical therapists do that.”
Blodgett is one of 22,000 Michiganders who, by the Center for Disease Control's standards, have recovered from COVID-19, which means they’ve recovered 30 days after the onset.
However, Blodgett said it’s been six weeks and she’s still recovering. According to Mary Free Bed, she was one of 15 patients they’ve treated so far in their newly-opened ReCOVery Unit.
“We also have occupational therapists. They work primarily with the arms but what we would say ‘activity of daily living,' so being able to bathe yourself and dress yourself which a lot of these severe COVID patients lose their ability after their initial hospitalization,” said Dr. Wang, the lead physician of the ReCOVery Unit “We also have speech therapy. So, they work with talking but they also work with swallowing. A lot of our patients lose a lot of their ability to swallow.”
Blodgett said she had a hard time swallowing and when she returned home, she was on ‘thickened liquids.’
“It was a week when my speech therapist came and let me start drinking thin liquids again, which was fabulous because I got to drink a cup of coffee,” Blodgett said with a smile. “But that was my biggest struggle I think was the swallowing.”
Blodgett said she still can experience shortness of breath and has to sit down when she feeling the slightest bit tired.
However, she’s grateful to be feeling much better. She’s determined to make a full recovery.
“I just want to be the positive [case] that it doesn’t have to be a deadly disease, that you can recover. You can comeback from this,” Blodgett said. “And so any positive that I can put out there, I’m grateful to be able to tell my story.”