Man goes home after months-long COVID-19 fight

Lloyd Jarrell, 38, of Groveland, left, is led out of Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Ocala by Rodney Mendoza on Tuesday. Jarrell has battled COVID-19 complications since February. He suffered numerous complications including a cardiac arrest and had to have surgery to remove his gall bladder. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 
After being hospitalized since February with COVID-19 complications, the one thing on New Orleans native Lloyd Jarrell’s mind Tuesday afternoon in Ocala was the crockpot full of homemade gumbo waiting for him at home.

As part of his months-long recovery, Jarrell, 38, spent time at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Ocala, where he received physical and occupational therapy to, among other things, learn to walk again and regain his balance. He said he chose to receive therapy there because he wanted to be challenged, and the facility offered a more intensive program than other places he checked out.

Jarrell, a resident of Groveland in Lake County, detailed his harrowing journey to Ocala.

“In February, I caught COVID and pneumonia. I went to the hospital, Orlando South, and the first two days it was very painful. My lungs felt like they were on fire,” he recalled. “The third day, they found me face down on the floor. And I don’t remember anything until April when they fully woke me up. I was told that my heart stopped for five minutes, then my kidneys stopped.”

Jarrell was on an ECMO ventilator for 69 days. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and the machine pumps and oxygenates blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest. He underwent a tracheotomy, and the scarring of the hole in his neck will always be visible. He had tubes in his chest and stomach. He said while he was in the hospital and at another medical facility, he could not “rotate,” or turn over in bed by himself.

“I was able to rotate for this first time here,” he said of Encompass, adding that he quickly progressed in walking and being able to climb stairs, as he lives in a two-story house.

“Now, I’m much more independent and self-sufficient,” he said.

Therapist Rodney Mendoza said when Jarrell arrived in Ocala, he was “so weak. We did an initial evaluation and then set goals. He has gotten better and better because he’s a hard worker.”

Jill Christy, business development director for Encompass in Ocala, said the facility has helped several recovering COVID-19 patients over the past year, and the average length of stay is 10 to 14 days.

As he got ready for his ride back home to Groveland, with a pink balloon tied to the back of his wheelchair, Jarrell said, “I want people to know how bad COVID can be. A lot of people think it’s just another virus. It’s not that big of a deal. They’ll know people that got COVID and be sick for a week. But they don’t know the other side of it, where someone like me catches COVID, and I’m six months in the hospital. I want to bring awareness to make sure we’re following safety regulations; wear the mask, wash your hands. And, if you have a person with COVID, be there for them, even if it’s just a text. Sooner or later, he’s going to read it, and it’s going to make him happy knowing someone cares. That’s the biggest thing in my journey—people have been there for me.”

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