On Easter weekend, an Alabama nursing officer credited “divine intervention” for the “miracle” recovery of a patient not expected to recover after being stricken by COVID-19.
So when Gregory Melcher of Guntersville was discharged Friday from Marshall Medical Center North between Guntersville and Arab, hospital staff cheered and celebrated – sending him home through a gauntlet of applause as he left the hospital.
“It’s a miracle he was able to leave the hospital,” Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Woodruff said in a hospital Facebook post. “The reason we wanted to celebrate his leaving was because he wasn’t supposed to. I believe it was divine intervention.”
Melcher spent two days in the intensive care unit, the hospital said, as his blood pressure dropped to a dangerously low level. He was removed from a ventilator because his 18-year-old son, Jacob, told doctors his father would not want to be kept alive on a machine.
After being removed from the ventilator, Gregory soon began breathing on his own and his condition stabilized — improving to the point that when his son called the hospital, “He asked how I was doing,” Jacob said in the Facebook post.
It’s a bright spot for an area that’s getting hit harder than most any county in north Alabama. As of late Saturday afternoon, Marshall County – with a population of only about 97,000 people – had 84 confirmed positive tests for the novel coronavirus. That’s the most positive tests of any county north of Birmingham’s Jefferson County other than Huntsville’s Madison County – which is the third-largest county by population in the state with about 373,000 people.
There has been one confirmed coronavirus-related death in Marshall County and two other suspected coronavirus-related deaths that are under investigation by the Alabama Department of Public Health.
While Marshall County has a high positive-test count, the cases have not put a strain on the county’s two hospitals. Both Marshall Medical North and Marshall Medical South in Boaz are part of the Huntsville Hospital Healthcare System.
“Those are trending up fairly quickly,” David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital, said Saturday. “That is not converting to inpatients. We only have two inpatients in Marshall County.”
Spillers noted that, of course, there was three inpatients on Friday – before Melcher was discharged.
“That was a very nice event they had for the gentleman who was discharged,” Spillers said.
Spillers cited several possible reasons for the high number of positive tests in Marshall County.
“A lot of the implementation of social distancing was at a city/county level,” he said. “That could be a factor. They have a lot of plants that are essential that have continued to work and working within close contact with each other, the poultry industry and so forth. That could be a factor. And then potentially people just not paying attention to the rules. It’s a rural community so people may not be doing the social distancing that they need to do.
“What I would surmise from the fact that there’s a pretty large number for a small county is that it’s in a younger, healthier population. They’re getting it, getting sick, but not sick enough to be in the hospital.”
Regardless of the reason, it’s caught Spillers’ eye.
“We’re trying to watch it, see if we can offer some additional services to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand,” he said.
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