Alabama finds itself entering the Summer months overwhelmed by an increase of COVID-19 diagnosis’.
While illnesses are ramping up in universal, inconspicuous ways throughout the state, other locations have simmered down into a season of solace and recovery. Evidence suggests these improvements are the direct result of extensive sanitization, and strictly upholding the CDC’s recommendations to hamper transmission.
In Wilcox County, perhaps no place has been struck quite as devastatingly, or as quickly, as the Camden Nursing Facility. There was once a time when over 60 percent of Wilcox County’s total number of infected had a direct connection with the nursing home, whether it be employees or staff members.
The coronavirus did not seem to discriminate whom it would take hold of; among the 23 residents who would test positive with the disease, another 20 otherwise healthy, employees would get sick as well. A
lthough the sickness seemed to spread in a surprising, ambushing wave throughout the facility, there were some residents like 67-year-old Grover Dandridge whose hindsight would become 20/20 as he witnessed case after case move from one bed, down one hallway and to another until he himself would be told he’d tested positive. How does someone feel when they first hear those words? After all, for many whose health places them not only susceptible to the disease, but also quite vulnerable to its fatal potential, hearing the phrase “you’ve got it” could sound a whole lot like a death sentence.
Grover didn’t indicate he was particularly afraid at first. “All I could do was put it in God’s hands,” he said, “there’s no use in being scared,” Mr. Grover’s faith would prove to be the best medicine.
His battle was not easy, by any stretch of the word. He didn’t have a cough or excessive sneezing, like many experienced, but he fell into pneumonia very quickly. “I have never had anything like this before,” he said, “I could hardly breathe.”
Mr. Grover was immediately transported to a hospital in Selma via a personal vehicle with the administration at CNF. All ambulances were unavailable, on other calls in the surrounding area. “We had to do something,” said Eldridge Stewart, CNF’s administrator. Grover says his family members, many of whom still live in Wilcox in the Yellow Bluff area, stayed in touch as best they could with phone calls and no-contact visits.
His physical state worsened by the day until he was taken to the ICU and put on a ventilator. The medical staff in Selma drew blood every 4 hours, checking on Grover several times throughout the night. He was in hospitals from the end of March to the 27th of April.
Grover grew up the son of a deacon in Mt. Pleasant church across from the mill. He says he was in church every Sunday growing up. That foundation cued some natural, prayerful responses throughout his trials with Coronavirus. Specifically, Mr. Grover says he prayed for the well-being of his family and the nation as a whole.
He continued to pray as the days drew out; and every day, he was losing weight. He had no appetite, sense of taste or smell. He ended up losing 30 pounds while in recovery. Mr. Grover was reminded of the dire reality behind his situation. “The doctor’s just told me ‘you are a sick man’,” he said, “I kinda got the feeling things were getting worse, but I just kept praying.”
I asked Mr. Grover if there were any specific ways God made His presence known, “I dreamed my family was there, my brother and law and my sister who’d passed away. They were just praying over me and laying hands over me saying ‘God let it be made whole.’
Then on April 23rd, like an express-shipment of God’s grace, Grover’s prayers were answered with some good news, “the nurse came in and said, ‘sir, this place is for sick people, and you’re not sick no more so we’re going to let you go.” “This is a serious disease,” Grover said, “and people need to start taking this seriously. I would tell people they need to take care of themselves and do what they’re supposed to do—and pray about it.”
I asked Mr. Grover his views on the current controversy in our area regarding the mandated use of masks in public. “I agree with that recommendation 100 percent,” he said, “people need to be wearing masks. They need to be safe. A lot of people aren’t going to make it due to their health problems.”
Mr. Grover’s relationship with God made the most lasting difference, in his opinion. “Thats why I’m sitting here now,” he said, “God’s got something he wants me to do.” He remembers each of his 6 friends who were lost. Without hesitation, he lists them by name. They were fellow residents, his neighbors and card partners; the people he lived with and had gotten used to seeing altogether all at once.“I knew every one of them,” he said. “and it’s alright, but Mr. Johnny, he was in the room with me. Now he’s passed on.” “I know they set preparations to go to a better place, and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior,” he said with finality.
Whatever God has planned for the rest of his life, Grover say’s God will prepare him for it just like he prepared him for Coronavirus. “He won’t call you to do nothing unless you’re prepared for it,” he said. Even with stricter living room protocals at the nursing facility, Grover says theres always “something to do,” and he has plenty of games and reading material at his disposal. He will have been living at the facility after 13 years this coming July. He describes his time spent as “excellent care,” and “If you can’t do things for yourself, this is the best place to be at. I’ll give it 5 stars,” he concluded as an undeniable, victorious grin formed behind his mask.