Finding Strength Through COVID-19

Jenna Bolling, a 32-year-old wife andmother of two young boys, Jaxson andHudson, learned the importance of faith,family, and friends during her battle withthe coronavirus.

A first-grade teacher at Lanier CountyPrimary School, Jenna was lookingforward to the start of the new school year, but that all changed when Jaxson,7, was the first in the immediate familyto test positive for COVID-19.

The next day, Jenna started having mildsymptoms and also tested positive forCOVID-19. The following week, Hudson, 3,and her husband, Chris, started having symptoms. “Hudson ran a fever, so wejust assumed he had it as well,” she said.”Days later, Chris lost his taste and smelland tested positive.”

While thankful that her husband andsons had mild symptoms, Jenna, whowas 24-weeks pregnant, became verynervous when she started havingtrouble breathing.

On Aug. 22, when Jenna’s conditionworsened, she went to the ER at SouthGeorgia Medical Center’s LanierCampus.

“I woke up that night gasping for air,”she said. “When I arrived, my oxygenlevel was 88 percent. They felt like I had pneumonia and wanted to do a chest X-ray, but because I was pregnant,I was placed on supplemental oxygen and transferred to SGMC’s main campus to be admitted.”

At SGMC, under the care of a team ofdoctors, nurses, respiratory therapists,and other specialists, Jenna respondedto treatment that included high-oxygenflow therapy, the antiviral medicationRemdesivir, and convalescent plasmatherapy.

On Aug. 28, when complications fromthe pregnancy escalated, Jenna had anemergency C-section. 

Weighing one pound, seven ounces,Bryson James was delivered andimmediately transported to Macon’sNavicent Health. 

“Bryson died the same day; he only lived20 hours,” Jenna said. “I noticed the C-section took longer than my twoprevious ones. Later I found out myplacenta ruptured.”

While dealing with the emotional stressof losing a child, Jenna said she becameeven more determined to fight COVID-19. “I turned to God even harder forstrength. I knew I had to get better to gohome to my family.”

“Prior to the emergency C-section, I feltthat she was improving,” said Dr.Gregory Beale, a pulmonologist at SouthGeorgia Medical Associates. But as herrespiratory condition continued todecline, Jenna was placed on aventilator.

“Before Dr. Beale put me on theventilator, I asked him if I was going todie,” she said. “He said, ‘Not today!’ He reminded me of this once in rehab and in his office. He said, ‘He will neverforget it.'”

Days later, she was life-flighted to theUniversity of Florida Health ShandsHospital and placed on an ECMO(extracorporeal membraneoxygenation) machine to supportheart and lung functions.

On her fourth day at Shands, Jennareceived a negative COVID test, andChris was able to be in her hospitalroom. “He never left my side otherthan to eat and shower.” Continuing tofight back, Jenna said, “Spiritually, I gotcloser to the Lord because I wasalways praying. Even Chris and Ibecame closer as we prayed together.”

“When her oxygen levels improved,Jenna was discharged from Shands and returned to SGMC to begin inpatient rehabilitation.

“When I began inpatient rehab, mybody was very weak from being in thehospital bed so long,” Jenna said.”Along with learning to walk, I had to relearn how to stand, sit up in the bed, roll over on my side, raise my legs, sit down with control, shower while monitoring my oxygen level, and even fixing my hair and makeup.”

Each day, Jenna made significantimprovements. “When I came to rehab, Icouldn’t walk,” she said. “I used awheelchair, then a walker, a rollator, then a cane. It was an amazing feelingwhen I was finally able to walk on myown, even if it was just a few steps.”

Jenna credits the SGMC’s inpatient rehabteam with her ability to walk again. “I received exceptional care. They becamefamily. They knew what kind of day I was having and would encourage me, prayedwith me, laughed, and even cried withme. They pushed me to do my best. Theywere some of my biggest cheerleaders,and I am forever thankful for them.”

On Nov. 5, after a combined 75 days in thehospital and inpatient rehab completed,Jenna was finally going home. Still using supplemental oxygen, Jenna was wheeled through the halls of SGMC as doctors, nurses, and staff “clapped her out” as she was reunited with her sonsand family members.

The celebration continued as Jennaarrived back home in Lakeland. “On theday of my discharge, I was so emotional,”she said. “I never expected anything like what I saw. People lined the streets holdingsigns and cheering as I went by. I felt like acelebrity. All I could do was smile.”

Jenna admits the days and weeks often seemed like a blur and is thankful that her sister, Jessica Mullis, a registered nurse atSGMC, kept a timeline of her recovery on Facebook.

“There were many days that I didn’t knowwhat was happening,” Jenna said. “TheFacebook prayers and words of encouragement played an important role in my fight. It gave me hope. It showed methat there were people all over the worldpraying for me, and I did not want to letthem down. It gave me strength.”

Jenna is grateful for the entire SGMC team.”When I arrived at SGMC, I receivedexceptional care from awesome nurses anddoctors,” she said. “Dr. Beale saved my life.SGMC Inpatient Rehab helped me walkagain. I am forever grateful.”

When asked what lessons she learned,Jenna said, “God healed me. The power ofprayer carried me. Chris never left me, andmy boys gave me a purpose. My sisteradvocated for me, my family supported me,and my community cheered me.”

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