“Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
For 77-year-old Ruth Hoover of James Creek, those lyrics from, “Amazing Grace,” took on another meaning Friday afternoon, as she not only credits the staff at Penn Highlands Healthcare, but her unending faith and the grace of God, that she was able to be discharged from the hospital after her 82-day battle with COVID-19.
Staff from the AC-1 unit of the hospital gave her a small reception and a hero’s exit as she was discharged. Hoover is the longest patient to stay and be discharged from Penn Highlands Huntingdon.
Hoover was admitted to Penn Highlands Huntingdon Feb. 21 after experiencing COVID-like symptoms for at least a week. It was then she was officially tested and diagnosed with COVID-19.
While she admits that she doesn’t remember a lot of what happened during those early days of her COVID diagnosis, Stephanie Stratton, a registered nurse working on the hospital’s COVID-19 unit, which employees called “COVID cove,” vividly remembers those early days.
“She was a sweet talkative lady who began showing me pictures of her grandkids within the first half hour, but over the next few weeks, I watched Ruth get sicker and sicker each day. At one point, my co-workers and I began to prepare her family for what we were 99.9% sure — she wouldn’t be leaving the cove alive.”
But, despite what staff thought, her breathing began to slowly improve a little each day until nurses and doctors realized she was through the worst of it.
However, her bout with COVID-19 left her bedridden, as simple tasks like eating, drinking, talking and walking were difficult to impossible.
“She was admitted to our rehab program,” said Stratton. “Every department came together, and we made it our mission that Ruth was going home.”
Hoover, however, trusted that she was in the best care possible, and her faith is what kept her going.
“I knew that I had to keep the faith and keep fighting,” she said. “I wasn’t scared. I knew they were there to make me better. There were days when I said ‘I can’t do it,’ and they told me, ‘yes you can.’”
John Leytham, director of physical therapy, said, “We needed Ruth to get better just as much as we needed Ruth to get better.”
“We needed to get her to learn how to take a drink, take steps, to walk, and she did it, and it gave us a lot of hope,” he said. “It came down to Ruth and God.”
Leytham also said he would sing hymns like, “Old Rugged Cross,” and “Amazing Grace” to help her through. Stratton said they would often use Facebook or call Hoover’s family to make sure they were connected, as they couldn’t visit her while she was in “COVID Cove.”
Stratton said the last eight months, hospital staff have seen so many losses because of COVID; however, she believes Hoover is truly a “miracle” and a “COVID warrior.”
“After all of the losses we had suffered, Ruth was our win,” she said. “We needed her to get well as much as she needed to. These last 82 days were a journey that none of us will ever forget.”
Before she was officially discharged, Hoover thanked the staff for their exceptional care during her stay.
“I just want to thank all of you for getting me through the hardest part of my life,” she said. “I also thank Jesus, because I couldn’t have done it without him.”