Our Stories: COVID-19, Storm within a Storm

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By Laurie Davis Lewis

The coronavirus for my family has been a storm within a storm.  My son, Dillon, was life- flighted to Atlanta Medical Center after an accident on our local bypass almost three years ago. Since that time I have spent my days between Madison and rehabilitation facilities, first in McDonough, and now at Restore in Roswell, Ga. My husband, Chic, took an early retirement from his job when Dillon was moved to Roswell.   

Before that we were only able to be together Saturdays and part of Sundays. We have an apartment about five minutes from Dillon’s center and are able to visit almost every day. Our other son, Wade, is nearby in Smyrna in an apartment,  going to school to learn the production side of the movie industry. Our home before all of this turmoil was in Buckhead Manor. 

We had hoped to bring Dillon back home to Morgan County but per our team of experts helping us with his recovery, we couldn’t return to our hometown. We have purchased a farm in Watkinsville and are building Dillon a wheelchair accessible home connected to ours on the property.  

As we pulled in to the driveway  of this farm, there were three large wooden crosses in the meadow and I thought about Randy Travis’ song.  The crosses spoke to me of the gratefulness we feel that Dillon survived his accident and reminds me each time I drive by them of how precious life is.

In these past two and a half years, I have been back and forth between Madison and wherever Dillon has lived to check on our home in Morgan County and I have helped my mom remodel my grandmother’s home that she inherited and moved into so that my son could visit there in a wheelchair. That renovation is complete and we were able to bring Dillon home for Christmas this past December. 

Our renovations to the main house at the farm were nearly completed and we were looking forward to starting to bring Dillon to the farm on weekends to begin his transition home when the COVID-19 virus became the top story in the news as it spread through China and shut down travel for Americans.  

My brother-in-law, Joe Gregg, works for the CDC in Atlanta and so my sister immediately updated me on recomendations for people with compromised immune systems. When Dillon was injured, along with 17 of his ribs broken, a punctured lung, a torn aorta, a lacerated liver, and the most severe brain trauma on the spectrum, his spleen had to be removed. This means that he doesn’t fight off infections as well as a healthy person and that  has already been an issue when he has had to recover from surgical procedures to help with his brain function.  

As the virus escalated and crossed the oceans to land in America, we watched and prayed for the victims in China and Italy and the other nations under attack. I tried to learn all I could about what doctors said would help stop the spread of this deadly virus, and I tried to encourage my friends and family through my Facebook page as I saw articles and encouraging stories. 

After news broke that the virus was here in the states, the center where Dillon lives started to check all visitors at the door with a checklist of questions and a temperature check. For about a week, we were screened as we visited but we were able to see him. We picked him up over the weekend and took him to our apartment but ran the risk if he came back with a temperature that he would not be re-admitted to the center.  The center directors decided the following Monday to cease all visitation until further notice. We have set up a schedule to Skype with Dillon on his IPad at 6 p.m. every evening. We packed and came to the farm and have been working ferrying things from our home in Madison to the farm and setting up a makeshift bedroom for Dillon so he can be with us as much as possible once the social distancing protocols are lifted. 

While his home won’t be finished until Fall, the main house remodel is done and we are eager for him to enjoy this beautiful place with us. To say I have been anxious at times,would be an understatement.  

In the midst of this, my uncle, Tony Stephens, had to have an emergency brain surgery the morning of the last day we could pick Dillon up for a visit before we would not see him for what I knew would be a while. We made the decision to go to Emory to see my aunt who has been by my side while my son was recovering, who checked on us and came to visit and shared my posts and in all the ways you can encourage someone, she did.  We found her and all of their three children listening to the doctor give them good news after the surgery and then explaining due to the virus that only one person could be at the hospital. Emory was gearing up for the worst as they already were testing cases. 

When I came back to the apartment before leaving for the farm the next day, I got a call from my baby brother, Brad. He asked me to pray and immediately I knew his concern. His best friend has a grandbaby who is fighting stage four cancer. The sweet boy is 10 months old and his mother is a nurse. With all of the COVID-19 protocols, she will be the only caregiver to the child while he takes chemo. 

No grandparents, friends or extended family can visit. His dad has to sit in the parking lot when they take him to his chemo treatments.  It is heart wrenching.  I know from experience of the loneliness you feel while  caring for a loved one and how exhausting and emotionally draining it is.  I had lots of visitors to take my mind off our troubles. 

Paul Jackson’s family needs all of our prayers. As I talked with my brother, he asked me to pray for him also as he is having a hard time wrapping his mind around this situation and trying to see God in it.  We talked at length and I encouraged him as he worked alongside his best friend (their plant is not closing as they make goods that are essential during this crisis) to think of ways to let him know that he is not alone. I told Brad to take him for a drive or fishing and be the shoulder that Paul is having to be for his family for little while. 

Let him talk or not talk, whatever he needs to do, but be there. 

I don’t remember the conversations I had with people in the days after Dillon’s accident, or the messages on the cards, but I remember the names and the faces. I remember that I was never alone in that fight.  It was a comfort to me. COVID-19 adds an extra layer of anxiety to our daily lives and I and probably everyone who is practicing social distancing has realized how many things we run after that don’t matter and how much we take for granted the things we love the most. 

 Life as we know it has been suspended.  

Use this time and your energy to make the most of the life you have been given today.  It is my take away from the storm that started long before COVID-19.  Find ways to serve God and others, because there is genuine joy and fulfillment in those things. Pray without ceasing, always connected to the One who has overcome this world. 

Check on your friends and family and please stay home so we can keep everyone a little safer in this storm. We are our brother’s keeper.

Laurie Davis Lewis is a wife and mother from 

Morgan County.

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