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Local COVID-19 patient’s roller-coaster ride to recovery

Gwen Pope reunited with ICU care team members at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital - Lake Saint Louis

On New Year’s Eve, Gwen Pope found herself in an ambulance being transported to the Emergency Room at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital – Lake Saint Louis. Within a few hours, she tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to the COVID-19 unit. Her caregivers tried all options, but eventually she was put on a ventilator.

During that time, her son, who is a Choir Director at a local high school, produced a CD of family members singing songs to be played in Gwen’s room. Gwen says she remembers hearing those songs playing in her room although she did not realize who was singing.

A member of the hospital’s Pastoral Care team, Rev. Chris Dumas, Chaplain, and friend of Gwen’s said, “Once she was on the ventilator, I would speak to her like always and describe what was happening that day. I would check the CD if it was off and say a prayer. What a joy when I saw her without that tube and her smile slowly returning.”

Gwen said one of the hardest parts of her recovery was her brain fog. “As someone with a Master’s [degree] who taught school for 40 years, I couldn’t believe it when they asked me to name three animals, and I just couldn’t,” she said.

On that ambulance ride on New Year’s Eve, Gwen could never have predicted the journey that was ahead of her. “It was quite a roller-coaster ride,” Gwen said. But finally, on Valentine’s Day, Gwen was able to go home. She was able to return to church on Easter. Gwen has now made nearly a full recovery. Her head fog is gone. She continues to struggle with fatigue and loss of smell and taste but is hopeful those will improve over time.

As for what helped Gwen pull through, Rev. Dumas has some theories, “Hope is the greatest of medicines and Gwen always had hope in her recovery and in her caregivers. We [the staff] also concluded that the homemade CD of her favorite music and messages from family helped.”

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