“I didn’t think I’d ever be home again.”
“I couldn’t kiss him bye. I dropped him off at the ER. I knew I couldn’t go in anyway.”
Becky and Ronnie Trammell have been married for 30 years. Up until 2020, they were evangelists who traveled around the country sharing their faith. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, like everyone else, they had to shift their lives to navigate through quarantine. They shifted their ministry and stayed home—until one day when they started to feel under the weather.
“Both of us received a positive COVID-19 result,” said Becky. “Ronnie was under the care of a local doctor in Springfield, Kentucky. He has asthma and was struggling to breathe. We took him to the hospital, and were discussing Ronnie’s possible stay at the hospital. My sister assured me that we needed to go to UK HealthCare, as they’ve been doing research on COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.”
After an hour’s drive, Becky dropped Ronnie off at the ER at Albert B. Chandler Hospital and drove back home, due to her own positive COVID result. “I cried all the way home, not being able to stay and really too sick to stay,” said Becky. “It was a scary feeling, but what we learned is that he was in good hands.”
Ronnie immediately started treatments to help him breathe easier. But his condition didn’t improve, and he was moved into the ICU the next day. “Ronnie was needing more oxygen, and [his doctor] expected Ronnie to be on a ventilator,” said Becky. “I was sick at home and then a little panicked because of the thought of a ventilator. Praying was a breath of fresh air in such a scary situation.”
During Ronnie’s 14 days in the ICU, he was cared for by Dr. Richard Wheeling, who started Ronnie on an aggressive treatment, attacking Ronnie’s infection “head-on,” according to Becky. Meanwhile Becky was managing her own symptoms at home. “I was very sick here at the house,” she said. “Then he was even more sick in the hospital and alone. We only talked on the phone a couple of times a day for five to ten minutes because it made his oxygen drop. By the second week, he was starting to get depressed. So his nurse suited up, went in the room and taught Ronnie how to video call. I could see him, and he could see me. It really helped.”
Becky may have been home by herself, but she was never alone. The staff at UK HealthCare’s COVID unit helped care for her, too. “They would ask how I was progressing at home, and remind me, even though I wasn’t a patient, that I needed to rest and let my body heal. They not only took care of Ronnie but involved me in his care. I always knew what was going on. The nurses were very compassionate. They were never annoyed or sharp-toned with me. They understood that I just needed to know that everything was okay.”
But Ronnie’s condition was worsening. His struggle to breathe escalated, and one day he passed out in the bathroom. “I lost all of my oxygen,” Ronnie said. “I couldn’t breathe in or out. I just felt myself just fading out, and the thought I had in my head was, ‘This is my time.’ But my nurse, Jessica, kept repeating these words: ‘Mr. Trammell, breathe in your nose, out your mouth. Mr. Trammell, breathe in your nose, out your mouth.’ She was my angel. If it hadn’t been for her, if she hadn’t been in the bathroom with me that day, I don’t think I would be here.”
“I’ll certainly never forget that moment. COVID-19 is real, and a lot of people feel like, because they haven’t directly been affected by it then it’s not a real virus. But it certainly is,” said Ronnie’s nurse, Jessica Hughes. “Ronnie was always so grateful that we were able to care for him. And thankfully everything turned out okay. He didn’t require getting intubated, and was able to go home a few days later. I’m very glad to have been able to take care of him.”
After 15 days in the hospital, Ronnie was finally released to come home. When he and Becky arrived, Ronnie teared up and said, “I didn’t think I’d ever be home again.” Ronnie was still positive with COVID, but was no longer in critical condition.
“Dr. Wheeling called and explained to me how to keep myself safe, take care of him and not be infected as I was now negative,” said Becky. “He kept in touch and called again to check on Ronnie. He gave me time to ask questions. We were in uncharted territory and Dr. Wheeling gave us the time and information we needed.”
Months later, Becky and Ronnie are back on the road to health. Both still have some occasional symptoms, but have improved over time, and received their vaccines in March. “We do not feel exactly like we did before COVID, but [we’re] so very much better every day,” said Becky.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out on the road and ministering to people in churches face-to-face,” said Ronnie. “It is for us all to work together and to do everything we can to keep one another safe, not just keep ourselves safe,” continued Becky. “We believe in the power of prayer. And for us it wasn’t only the power of prayer. It was the power of prayer and good care.”