MCDONOUGH, Ga. - Sitting together in their McDonough, Georgia, living room, talking to a reporter via Zoom, Claudette and Leonard Himes cannot get over how grateful they feel.
They met years ago in church, and share a deep sense of faith.
That faith helped them get through the most difficult experience of their lives last month when they nearly lost Claudette to complications of COVID-19.
Their ordeal began in mid-March when the 63-year-old accountant spiked a fever of 102 F.
They tried medication, but couldn't bring the fever down.
Then, Claudette Himes began having trouble breathing.
On March 16, 2020, Leonard rushed his wife to a nearby hospital, where things unraveled quickly.
Claudette Himes felt feverish and confused.
“I just thought that I had the flu," Himes says.
She remembers almost nothing about the next 3 weeks: not being hospitalized in Emory St. Joseph’s intensive care unit, not testing positive for COVID-19, not the hurried goodbye to Leonard before she was sedated and placed on a machine to breathe for her.
“I prayed with her, and I said I loved her, and I said we’re going to trust in the Lord and Savior to heal you," Leonard Himes remembers.
Claudette Himes would spend the next 12 and half days on a ventilator.
"He tells me the stories of how bad it was, what I went through," she says. "It was mind-blowing."
Leonard Himes wouldn't see his wife in person again for 18 days.
“In a normal circumstance, you can be by the side of your loved one and care for them and pray with them, and be there to at least know what’s going on," he says. "But, through this pandemic, the severity of it, we had to be totally separate.”
After 11 days in the ICU, with no sign of improvement, Leonard, an associate pastor at Beulah Missionary Baptist Church in Decatur, asked a hospital chaplain to set up a baby monitor in his wife's ICU room, so he could speak to her.
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She was not conscious, but he sensed she could hear his voice.
He knew this might be the last time he would get to talk to her.
"I was able to read to her, and pray for her, and just let her know it was going to be okay," Himes says. "The nurse and the chaplain that were in the room attending to her turned the camera back at them and they were just sobbing, with tears running down their face."
The next morning, with Himes was on the phone with Claudette's medical team, his other phone rang.
So, his sister-in-law answered it.
“And she came running in there and saying, 'Claudette was sitting up in bed, extubated, and breathing on her own,'" he says.
A few days later, Claudette celebrated her 63rd birthday, surrounded by nurses.
"Can you imagine having a birthday and someone telling you that you might not have made it," she says. "And to breathe God’s air? Oh, my God, I’m just blessed."
The Himes say they cannot medically explain why Claudette is still here.
"But, what I do know is God is real, and he answers prayer,” Leonard Himes says. And, he answered this one."
The Himes will celebrate their 8th wedding anniversary Tuesday with a quiet meal together at home, where Claudette is recovering.
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