‘It felt like I was drowning:’ COVID-19 patient returns home after 5 months in hospitals

38-year-old describes his battle with COVID-19

OCALA, Fla. – Although Lloyd Jarrell has been recovering from COVID-19 and pneumonia for nearly half a year, he recalls the first two days being among the worst.

“My lungs felt like they were on fire. I honestly just wanted to give up because the pain was so bad. It felt like I was drowning,” Jarrell said. “Sweats.  Running a high fever.  It’s just so terrible.”

Jarrell, 38, was released from Encompass Health rehabilitation hospital Tuesday following five months of medical treatment and physical therapy.

The Groveland man was first admitted to an Orlando hospital in February, where he says he spent more than three months on a life support machine after suffering heart, kidney and gall bladder failure.

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“After the first few days, I don’t remember anything after that until April when they fully woke me up,” said Jarrell. “When I woke up, I couldn’t really move a lot.  I couldn’t rotate. I couldn’t really do anything on my own. My hands shook really bad.”

Jarrell, who said he previously suffered from nerve damage associated with neuropathy, was barely able to walk when he left the intensive care unit.

“When I got here [to Encompass Health] to do physical therapy, the first day I could only walk five feet,” said Jarrell.

Jarrell’s physical therapist, Rodney Mendoza, said COVID-19 patients often lose strength and endurance.

“They are just very, very weak when they get here,” said Mendoza.  “After exerting a little effort, they get short of breath right away.”

Now that he is back home, Jarrell will continue physical therapy in hopes of fully regaining his strength and mobility.

“I was one of the lucky ones.  But there are people who are not so lucky,” said Jerrell, who plans to get a COVID-19 vaccination once he’s certain his immune system has returned to normal. “Yes, there are people out there that actually get COVID and are sick for a week. But that’s not a guarantee.  If you do catch COVID, you could be like me and end up in the hospital for six months.  Or not make it at all.”

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.