(Lexington, Ky.) April 25, 2020 — Sheila Thornsberry, a COVID-19 patient, was discharged from Baptist Health Lexington yesterday evening. The 50-year-old physician assistant had been admitted on April 2.
Surrounded by her care team, with staff applauding, the Lexington mother of two exited the hospital to the strains of a song picked by her for this occasion, “Stand By You,” by Rachel Platten. The song reflects her heartfelt feelings about recovering in the ICU. The ceremony, a gentle send-off as the patient reunited with her family, served as inspiration to a staff that had worked tirelessly for weeks to make this recovery possible.
As a physician assistant, Thornsberry cares for patients for a living. As a mom, she cares for her children and husband at home. Now she has a new perspective, as an intensive care patient. One of the most difficult parts of being hospitalized with COVID-19 was time spent away her loved ones. “I miss my home and my family,” she said.
The ICU staff became her friends, family, and her source of socialization. “They did their absolute best. I couldn’t have asked for better care,” she said.
The staff facilitated Thornsberry’s precious FaceTime visits with her husband Ron and her son and daughter, both students at the University of Kentucky. But she still missed the hugs of her family, visits with her mother who lives in Knott County, and petting her dog Lucy, a border collie-Lab mix.
Thornsberry’s recovery is the result of weeks of dedicated work from a team of nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and dieticians. “Without them, no ventilator or medicine would have time to work,” said Dr. Yuri Villaran, an intensivist who works with critically ill patients.
Villaran, who treated Thornsberry, says that the successful treatment of a coronavirus patient involves the ICU staff, and others.
“This success is due not only to constant work from everyone in the ICU, but from Gov. Beshear and his team flattening the curve so our hospitals won’t be over capacity,” Villaran said. “Our hospital leaders, president Bill Sisson and chief operating officer/chief nursing officer Karen Hill and their team, make sure that we are prepared, that we are as safe as possible, so we can be at the bedside providing all of the care that each patient needs.”
As a patient, Thornsberry has learned of the toll COVID-19 can have on the body and the pain it can bring. She hopes that everyone keeps self-distancing, washing hands, and wearing masks, for their safety and the safety of those around them.
“People need to be diligent and to remember the seriousness of this disease,” she said. “I understand that staying safe at home might be a sacrifice, that being out of work is a sacrifice; but it is for the good of your family and the community.”