A Hartwell mother, Sally Frady, and her daughter saw a glimmer of hope as Mother’s Day approached last week in what has been more than a month of worry and fear.
Her husband, 67-year-old Richard Frady, a bluegrass musician with the Lake Hartwell Bluegrass band, was in an intensive care unit (ICU) at AnMed Health for more than a month battling COVID-19. Ten of those days were spent on a ventilator to assist his breathing. Frady is no longer attached to the ventilator and his family is hopeful he is recovering as he was placed in a regular hospital bed on Sunday.
“He’s gradually, gradually improving,” Sally Frady said Thursday, April 30.
The couple has been married for nearly 47 years, Sally said, and since then they’ve never gone much more than two days apart from each other. Then Richard fell ill with the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 1,300 Georgians and more than 71,000 people across the country.
The worst part of it all, Sally said, is knowing how sick he is and being separated from each other. Even though they’re able to talk through video chat, she says it’s not the same as being in the room with him. She said Richard is only strong enough to talk for a few minutes each day and their conversations are brief because he is so weak.
“It’s just terrible,” Sally said about not being able to see her husband due to restrictions on visitation. “...If they would let me, I would be there.”
Since he was moved to a regular hospital bed on Sunday, doctors have indicated to Sally the next step for Richard is to go to inpatient rehab where he would work on regaining his strength.
“He hasn’t been able to walk even,” Sally said. “So they would need to do some physical therapy.”
The virus alone has caused Richard, who Sally says had no underlying health issues before this, to be hospitalized since March 28. She said he hasn’t had pneumonia or any other complications due to the virus.
“He was very healthy,” Sally said. “He exercised, didn’t smoke, ate healthy.”
Richard first became sick in early March, Sally said, nearly a month before Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order went into effect on April 3 and just shortly after the first two confirmed cases of the virus hit Georgia on March 3.
She said Richard went to a local doctor in March, who diagnosed him with a sinus infection and prescribed him antibiotics, but Richard wasn’t getting better. He had a high fever, sometimes reaching 104 degrees, as well as a bad cough and body aches, Sally said. A nurse practitioner recommended the couple go to either AnMed or Piedmont Athens Regional, so they went to Anderson on March 28 because it is closer to home. Sally said she suspected he had the virus.
“Right away he was admitted,” Sally said. “He was sent to ICU and they did a test.”
The COVID-19 test returned positive for Richard, confirming Sally’s suspicions.
Sally, however, has yet to become symptomatic, despite sleeping in the same bed as her husband every night and having daily contact with him, she said.
“It’s a miracle I don’t have it,” Sally said.
The couple doesn’t know where Richard may have contracted the virus. She said they may have been to some restaurants in the days before Richard became sick.
“We’ve thought about it and thought about it,” Sally said. “I don’t know where he could’ve gotten it.”
Throughout the ordeal Sally’s daughter has kept her mother stable, she said. Alisson Nissen, 40, checks on Richard’s status daily with the hospital and has been a huge support, Sally said. Nissen gives Sally the report of the day and has been “a rock” for her.
“I think it’s made us stronger,” Sally said about how Richard’s life-threatening illness has changed their lives.
Sally said she knows Richard is in good hands and she appreciates the staff at AnMed.
“I can’t say enough good things about the nursing staff at AnMed,” Sally said. “They have done an amazing job.”
Richard and Sally are members of Hartwell First United Methodist Church and Sally says she believes Richard is still alive and fighting because of all of the prayers they’ve received from their church family and the community.
“People die from this virus,” Sally said. “I am convinced that Richard is alive today because of everybody’s prayers.”
She wants people to know just how disastrous this virus can be.
“It’s just devastating, very devastating,” Sally said. “Hold your loved ones near and dear to you.”
Sally is looking forward to the day Richard is well-enough to celebrate surviving COVID-19, she said. The couple goes to Atlanta and eats at their favorite restaurant, Ray’s on the River, every year for their daughter’s birthday, but they missed the occasion this year due to Richard being hospitalized. Now, they hope to take Richard, their daughter and their grandchildren out for a celebratory dinner.
“When he gets out, we’ll go and celebrate it,” Sally said.