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Louisville man admitted to hospital with COVID symptoms, wakes up one month later

Demetrius Booker said he was admitted to the hospital in July 2020. He spent 95 days in the hospital, including a month in a medically-induced coma.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More than 200,000 people in Louisville have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020, according to the latest data. Although cases are on the decline, many people are still dealing with symptoms, months after their positive test.

Two men who experienced severe symptoms and complications shared their stories during the weekly COVID-19 briefing held by city health leaders Tuesday.

Demetrius Booker, a graphic designer with the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering, described himself as a healthy father until the summer of 2020. When he got COVID, he lost his sense of taste, suffered from fatigue and a high fever, and had difficulty breathing.

Following urging from his sister, he was admitted to a Louisville hospital on July 18. The next thing he remembers is waking up at a Lexington hospital. His nurse told him that it had been 95 days since he had been admitted and he spent a month in an induced coma.

Booker said that if he had waited another day to go to the hospital, he wouldn't have survived.

Today, he said the only lasting effect of the virus has been with his breathing.

"It was explained to me that the lungs can heal, but they do not regenerate, so whatever damage is done is done," he said.

After his experience, Booker got the COVID-19 vaccine and recently received his booster shot.

"The one thing that kept just replaying in my head was basically when doctors tell you, 'Hey, if you get sick again like this, you're not going to make it,'" he said.

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Jody Demling had his battle with COVID very early on in the pandemic, in March 2020. Demling, the publisher of Cardinal Authority on the 24/7Sports Network, said he started experiencing symptoms while he was in Greensboro, North Carolina covering the ACC men's basketball tournament.

Demling said once the chills set in, his wife and family quarantined away from him. He kept in contact with his doctors and only experienced a fever for the first few days.

"About seven days later, I think it was April 1, I felt really terrible," Demling said. "I remember sneezing at one point, and it felt like every bone in my body was going to break."

Once his symptoms escalated, Demling said his wife called an ambulance to take him to the hospital. His family put on Hazmat suits to protect themselves as they got him out of the house.

Demling said he was put on a ventilator as soon as he arrived at the hospital and spent several days at the hospital. He was released on April 15 - but didn't start feeling truly better until months later.

"It was probably, I guess, July or August of 2020 - I felt like I was getting back to myself," he said.

Nearly two years later, Demling said he still has rough days, but his symptoms don't affect his everyday life.

"At this point, I'm very fortunate that I'm alive," Demling said.

He added that he and his wife had been vaccinated and boosted, something that was important to both of them.

"If I could do anything to prevent from having to feel that again, I'm going to do it," he said.

For those who are dealing with long-term symptoms of COVID-19, there are multiple places where they can find treatment.

UofL Health has a clinic specially focused on long-haul COVID-19 symptoms including headaches, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell and brain fog, among others. 

The clinic opened in Oct. 2020 and Dr. Christian Furman, the medical director for the UofL Health Trager Institute, said having patients come to the clinic helps doctors have a better idea of how people can still deal with COVID-19 months, and even years, after they test positive.

At the Norton Infectious Diseases Institute Long-term COVID-19 Care Clinics, both adult and pediatric patients can connect to a team of specialists to address ongoing health needs caused by the virus.

Dr. Joseph Flynn, the chief administrator for Norton Medical Group, said unvaccinated patients are three times more likely to experience long-term COVID-19 symptoms compared to those who are vaccinated.

"We've seen everything from people who were marathoners who can't blow out birthday candles to people who were students and high functioning, and they have overarching brain fog, headaches, fatigue. It's a profound trauma," Dr. Flynn said.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said Demetrius Booker spent three months in a medically-induced coma. He was only in a coma for one month. This version has been corrected.

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