The cheering heard outside Jackson South Medical Center Thursday was all for James Gardner, 77 years old, who beat the odds, beat COVID-19 and is now headed home.
“We can’t even find words to express our gratitude,” said Gardner’s wife, Maggie. “Not one time did they say, ‘No Ms. Gardner, there’s nothing we could do.’”
After weeks in the hospital, James is looking forward to Maggie’s cooking.
“Dinner -- chicken, cabbage and collard greens,” he said outside the hospital.
Maggie will provide the cooking and the laughs.
“He looks wonderful, he looks younger,” she said. “It seems like they must’ve given him an anecdote that made him look younger.“
James went into Jackson South a month ago with a bad case of COVID -19. He spent 10 days in the intensive care unit and kept fighting, and his medical team was impressed.
“He was actually a little frustrating, because he was frustrated,” said Dr. Andrew PastewskI, the hospital’s ICU medical director. “He didn’t understand at times why he needed oxygen. Sometimes they just don’t feel as sick as they really are.”
Nurse Yuliet Martinez was in charge of FaceTiming and keeping Gardner in touch with his family, visually.
“It also shows the improvement, they’re able to see it themselves, so that also helps calm everybody down, calm the anxiety, fear,” she said.
Maggie contracted COVID too and recovered. She thinks James got it from her.
He spent his birthday in the hospital, so as a surprise, Maggie’s gift to him was a new wedding band to match hers.
“I just wanted him to know how much I love him and I couldn’t find a better husband," she said.
The Gardners have known each other since elementary school, rekindled their friendship and then married nine years ago. They’ve got plenty to celebrate in the days ahead.
Gardner wrapped up his ordeal with a message, delivered through his wife.
“He was trying to tell me let everybody know, the world know, that COVID-19 is not a joke," she said.