MICHIGAN — Jeremy Cornell couldn't find room in any hospitals around West Michigan, so he and his family drove more than 1,000 miles to Florida.
Cornell has family down there who can help, and he says they're also learning how different it is getting care at a hospital right now.
Heather Hinman easily remembers the moments trying to get her brother-in-law Jeremy Cornell into several hospitals during Thanksgiving week.
"We called down to Kalamazoo to Borgess; Holland we already knew wasn't going to be an option just from watching the news," says Hinman. "They were already maxed out."
Hinman and Cornell told FOX 17 they kept getting the same answer everywhere they looked. "Basically until he has breathing issues worse than he's got, we're not getting them — don't have room," she explained.
"Pretty much said, 'You got COVID pneumonia, and you got to let it run its course. There's not much we could do here for you.' So I was kind of, you know, freaking out and bummed about that, that I couldn't get the support or hope I needed."
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They shared photos with us depicting Cornell's COVID-infected lungs.
Cornell says the white spots on the x-rays are the results of him getting sick.
"I try to avoid, stay away from hospitals and stuff," says Cornell. "But I couldn't handle at this point, and I told my wife that I was freaking out. And, you know, I couldn't breathe anymore. So she (wife) came and got me and we went to the emergency room. But you know, when I got there, I thought for sure, you know, they'll help me at least, at least get a minute. But no, they [...] kept saying, 'We're over capacity; we cannot help you because of your age group and because where your oxygen levels are.'"
Cornell is one of many Michiganders who are unvaccinated.
We're now getting a snapshot of what it was like for hospitals across the state that week. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released the latest data:
- 87% of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds are unvaccinated.
- 88% of patients on ventilators are unvaccinated.
Cornell says despite not getting a bed, he was able to get an antibody treatment.
"He flat-out told you, 'I don't know if you're gonna make it," says Hinman.
"When he told me that, it — you know — it's 50/50 chance you either make it or you're, you know, eventually get worse and you won't make it," recalls Cornell. "You know, that was... that was very scary."
They say the treatment seems to have gone in the right direction.
"I honestly think that that was part... a small part of him, breaking his fever, his body calming down," says Hinman.
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Still, the two chose to better their odds. They say once out of the quarantine window, they drove south to Florida. They're staying with his twin sister to look after him when Hinman comes back to Michigan.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 78% of inpatient beds are in use in Florida.
Cornell and Hinman say they're learning their chances of getting into a hospital are also much higher.
"If you have to go to the ER for a broken bone, they're gonna see you," says Hinman. "If you are in a car accident, they're gonna see you. If you have COVID pneumonia, they're going to see you, and if you're bad enough, they'll admit you because they have room here."
The two of them plan to get Cornell to a doctor soon for a checkup.
"'Can we get him established here temporarily?' and then letting the doctor here know who his doctor back home is so they can because his doctor back home is wonderful back in Michigan," says Hinman. "He's amazing. And said, you know, 'I will keep in contact and we can, you know, video appointments and, you know, work with a doctor in Florida to get you established.'"
Cornell understands there's going to be a long road to recovery. He told FOX 17 he wishes he had gotten the vaccine.
Watch our full interview with Jeremy Cornell and Heather Hinman here:
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