By the grace of God

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After being on a ventilator for 28 days and 65 days in the hospital, 63-year-old James Linder went home Friday.

It was a long time coming, but Colleton Medical Center discharged one of its long-term COVID-19 patients Friday July 24 with a red carpet celebration.

Healthcare workers lined the halls and applauded as 63-year-old James Linder was released after 65 days in the hospital into the care of his family who waited outside. Son Stephon Linder was one of the crowd filming the entire event. “I am so excited he is coming home,” said Stephon. “It’s been a long time, and we all can’t wait to see him.”

It was also an emotional time for Linder’s wife Clemustine. She hugged a teary farewell to nurses who had taken care of Linder throughout his ordeal.

Charlene Westbury, Linder’s primary nurse, was thrilled to see this day come. “He was on a ventilator for so long, lost use of his kidneys and had to be on dialysis too,” said Westbury. “I thought I was going to lose him, so I cried, prayed and yelled for him to get better and hang in there.” And he did, but it was a close call.

In early May, James had just battled the flu, and the family quarantined themselves. He went back to work, but after a few days, he came home sick again. He had a doctor’s appointment and was tested for COVID there. While waiting for the results a few days before Mother’s Day, James got significantly worse. He woke up feeling bad with a fever and uncontrollable coughing. He had stopped drinking water, and his wife was worried he was dehydrated. She called for an ambulance and while waiting, she contacted DHEC to ask about helping her husband clean up before leaving, but she was told not to go near him.

James was taken to the hospital, and when Clemustine called to see when she could see him, she was told she couldn’t because her husband was on a ventilator. He remained that way for 28 days. She couldn’t see him for 21 of those days, but she came to the hospital every single day and saw him through the window.

He doesn’t remember anything about the experience, but Clemustine sure does.

“I was told that if he went into cardiac arrest, and I had to make a choice about pulling the plug on the ventilator, what would I do? I said, ‘Nothing. I wasn’t pulling any plug.’ He was staying with me,” said Clemustine. “The doctor said that James was a very sick man. I was asked if he were able to sit up and talk to me, what would he say about resuscitation? I said that I thought he would say, ‘Give me a chance,’ so that’s what I told the doctor. ‘Do everything you can to keep him alive. Shock him back if you have to.’ I was calm about the whole thing and said to let the breathing machine stay on him.”

Although James was very sick, he still coughed while on the ventilator, a very unusual behavior. He also turned his head toward the window from time to time, as if sensing that his wife was there. But he remembers nothing.

“The doctors and nurses told me to keep coming, keep coming because they could see him get a little better every single day,” said Clemustine.

Almost two months later, James woke up and looked around. He realized he was in the hospital and said, “Thank you, Jesus. I knew I had another chance and that God gave it to me. I wasn’t scared then.”

So many people at the hospital played a role in bringing James back to health: doctors, nurses, specialists, ICU people, food service workers, dieticians, technicians, and the rehabilitation team. The Linders are grateful for each and every one of them.

His next step is followup rehabilitation, but he is really looking forward to being in his yard. He hasn’t been outside in two months. He really wants to see his family and grandchildren, and celebrate his 64th birthday next month.

“I thank God that He let me live so I could take care of my wife. My church and my family prayed hard for me to get well. Our faith in God got us through,” said James.

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