Mississippi man recovering at home after 21 days on a ventilator due to COVID-19

Updated: Apr. 26, 2020 at 2:37 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A Pearl River County man is recovering at home after spending three weeks on a ventilator due to COVID-19. Doctors didn’t believe there was much chance for survival, but the man and his family never gave up hope.

After 21 days on a ventilator, Joey Collum was wheeled out of a Hattiesburg hospital.

“Lord. I don’t even know how to put that into words,” Collum said. “I knew then I was way more blessed than I ever thought I was.”

Emergency responders escorted Collum and his wife Datia from the hospital to their church where a welcome committee awaited.

“They had their sirens going down the highway and he was just crying. He was just crying. Because he made it. He made it,” Datia said.

Datia says, according to doctors, the odds were against him. The 62-year-old Mississippi man has pre-existing conditions and hadn't fully recovered from a recent bout in the hospital.

"The doctors weren't giving me a whole lot of hope. They were already basically preparing me for the worst," Datia explained. "The virus just basically tore his lungs up."

Joey first showed symptoms, March 22. By the 27, he was in the hospital with pneumonia. The next day, Joey’s test came back positive for COVID-19. His condition had deteriorated and he was flown to a hospital in Hattiesburg where he only got worse.

“He was in such bad condition. I got the phone call after they intubated him which means that the last time I talked to him would’ve been the last time that I talked to him had anything happened. So, I was just feeling a little lost,” Datia choked back tears. “I’m sorry.”

When doctors put Joey on a ventilator, Datia did research on mortality rates for COVID patients, looking for hope but finding very little.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates nine out of 10 COVID patients put on ventilators do not survive. The study examined the outcomes of 2,600 patients in the New York City area.

Doctors say, the longer a patient is on one, the less chance for survival. Ventilators help a patient breathe but do not offer a solution. They solely provide support until the body is well enough to breathe on its own or until other treatments prove successful.

"It was scary. It was really scary because he almost didn't make it," Datia said.

For days, Datia waited for good news, but it didn't come. She tried to stay busy and stay strong for her family. Oftentimes, Datia says she found herself outside, singing and talking to her God.

"If it was his time to go, then God knows better than me what plan he had. I was able to keep my faith just because of the relationship I have with God and that he has our best interest in mind and I just had to trust him and believe that," explained Datia.

It wasn't. Joey began to improve and doctors took him off a ventilator.

“21 days. I didn’t even know I was alive,” Joey said.

Once Joey awoke from sedation and started responding, Datia knew her husband would recover.

"It was a very weak and a very frail voice but he told me he loved me and it was perfect. It might've been weak but it was perfect," recalled Datia.

Still celebrating but exhausted from the homecoming, the Collums believe it would have never happened without their faith.

“We had a lot of people praying and so I really believe that those prayers were heard,” Datia said. “And he’s home.”

"I know my God never let my hand go," Joey said.

Joey is still recovering. He doesn’t have his voice back, completely, and there are sores on his face from the glue that held the intubation tube in place.

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