Sumter woman reflects on her COVID-19 experience that left her in coma for weeks

A year after first being hospitalized, community activist says everyone should get virus vaccine


Imagine waking up from a five-week-long coma to find the world shut down from a coronavirus pandemic, let alone learning the cause of that coma was from that same coronavirus.

That's what happened to 70-year-old Sumter community groups activist Patty Wilson last year.

"I was in and out of a coma," Wilson said. "I couldn't remember anything."

All Wilson knew was she had come home from two meetings: one in Washington, D.C., in early February 2020 and another in Myrtle Beach at the end of that same month.

Wilson started to fall ill in March. The last thing she could recall before losing consciousness was Sumter County EMS taking her to Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital.

"She was unconscious at least for five weeks," said Michelle Logan-Owens, who was the CEO of the hospital at the time.

Wilson is a retired assistant hospital administrator, and the staff knows her well, which made it more heartaching to witness Wilson's COVID-19 experience.

"Patty was admitted twice," Logan-Owens said. "During her first admission, she became critically ill and had to be transferred to the ICU and was able to be discharged back home from the floor."

Wilson is a strong-willed woman, according to Logan-Owens. Wilson insisted she could go home after her first admission, and the Tuomey staff tried talking her into staying a couple more days.

"We told Patty, 'You need to stay. You need a few more days,'" Logan-Owens said. "Patty goes home and then very quickly recognizes she's in trouble. That she left too soon."

Logan-Owens got a phone call from Wilson that is still saved on her voicemail saying she thinks she came home too soon, was short of breath and needed help.

"I sent EMS to the home she was staying," Logan-Owens said. "I knew what I heard from Patty. I could hear how short of breath she was. I would not allow that to rest."

Wilson denied EMS, so Logan-Owens sent a home health nurse to check on her, and the nurse confirmed Wilson needed to return to the hospital.

"She was in the ICU for at least five or six weeks in really serious critical condition, such that I became so worried," Logan-Owens said. "She was my mentor."

Throughout those weeks, there were a couple of times that Logan-Owens and the hospital staff didn't think she was going to make it.

Logan-Owens called Wilson's sons in Kansas and immediate family in Sumter, knowing it was time to come see her.

With COVID-19, families and visitors are not allowed in the hospital, but if it was a possible end-of-life situation, a minimal amount of family members are allowed in the facility, according to Logan-Owens.

"We had to have conversations with the family about what would be her wishes if she's not going to come off of this ventilator or if she's not going to gain re-consciousness," she said. "You have to start talking about end-of-life decisions."

Based on what Wilson was told, her family did not want to even think about those conclusions. They prayed she would wake up and get better.

"We talked about final efforts we could make to try and turn the situation around for her," Logan-Owens said. "Glory to God, it worked, and she started to improve."

"I'm a walking miracle," Wilson said.

Logan-Owens was in awe by her staff at the time who did everything possible to save her friend.

"The ICU team and the intensivist medical staff team were the ones that really did everything possible, as they do for all patients, to make sure that all measures were taken to do the best effort to try and save her life," she said.

Wilson was later transferred to Regency Florence for services and rehab, where she learned to walk again and regain her strength before checking out of the hospital in late June.

"That happiest day was when she called me and said, 'I'm going home,'" Logan-Owens said. "I continue to be emotional when I think about that phone call."

Wilson is beyond thankful for the medical staff at both hospitals who helped her survive and heal.

She said if there is anything to take away from her experience, it's that COVID-19 isn't a joke and that everyone should get the vaccine.

"It wasn't even necessary for me to do it, but I got it anyway," Wilson proclaimed. "If you have not done it, do it."