This article is part of our series “COVID-19: 1 Year Later,” exploring the ways COVID-19 has affected and changed daily life over the last year. For two weeks, we surveyed our readers on how COVID-19 has affected them. Read our survey results here.
It has been a year since COVID-19 changed our world. As the vaccine is administered to the masses in hopes of creating herd immunity, one nurse’s story from the front lines inspires us to keep up the efforts to do our part in keeping the community safe and healthy.
Jared Brock, a nurse at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford knows what it is like to be on the front line. He saw a lot as a nurse in Memphis for 10 years. The good and the bad. Life and death. Lots of death. After burning out and starting a towing company, his wife asked him if he was really done with nursing. He said he didn’t know. Then, one day a young man at their church collapsed. Jared flew to the young man’s aid. His wife’s comment, “I think you got your answer.” Yes, he did.
After five years as an Emergency Department nurse at Saint Thomas Rutherford, at the beginning of the pandemic, Brock was transferred to the COVID-19 Unit. Going above and beyond for his patients, he worked overtime knowing there was a shortage of staff. Yet, he still made sure to have time for his wife and 10-year-old daughter in their new home.
Then, in July of 2020, Brock contracted COVID-19. He started to run a temperature on a Friday and by Sunday morning he was hospitalized in the same COVID-19 unit where he’d been caring for patients.
His condition quickly deteriorated. Sunday evening, he was on a high flow of oxygen. He was gasping for breath on Monday. The last thing his care team wanted to do was intubate him, but if his condition worsened, they would have no choice.
One thing that Brock will never forget is the feeling that he might not be going home. He still remembers laying in his hospital bed feeling like he was suffocating, like he was drowning. It felt like a blowtorch in his chest every time he coughed. It hurt to take deep breaths, so he took little short breaths. He took medication to help him breathe deeper so he could heal.
“I still get chills thinking about it,” said Brock through tears. “I honestly thought I was going to die.”
That evening Brock decided to FaceTime his family. He couldn’t imagine his daughter without a father. His wife told him, “You have to give it to God. Quit worrying about it, and just give it to God.”
The next morning, Brock remembers looking up at Dr. Zakaria Botros and saying, “Don’t let me die in the hospital,”
Dr. Botros assured Brock that he was in great hands.
After receiving medicine on Monday, Brock began to feel better. He stayed in the hospital for two weeks. He spent another three months at home recovering.
“Someone I do need to thank is my neighbor Chad,” said Brock. “He would mow my yard while I was in the hospital and after. In the heat of the summer. Sometimes twice a week. I could not have done it without him, and other great neighbors.”
Although it was a long road, Brock is now back caring for COVID-19 patients in both the COVID-19 Unit and the Emergency Department.
“My recovery was a team effort,” said Brock. “Every discipline deserves recognition. They were all fantastic.” From EVS to his hospitalist team, he thanks everyone.
His experience makes him feel passionate about those who do not take COVID-19 seriously.
“It troubles me that people still go to Walmart without a mask,” said Brock, “and that there are people who still think it is fake. It’s not fake. It’s as real as it can get…Everyone needs to take it seriously. You don’t know how it is going to treat you. Some lose their taste and go home, others can’t breathe and never go home…This disease does not discriminate against anyone…I just hope everyone protects themselves and their families. Protect others out of common courtesy.”
The whole experience has, Brock feels, made him better and more compassionate at his job. Having gone through it, he understands what his patients are experiencing.
Brock adds, “God would have taken me out from this, but he had a purpose for me. Now I’m back doing what I’m supposed to do. And what I love.”