When a chaplain called the other day, he asked if Steve and Peggy Jahn might be willing to speak with a woman whose husband was in the hospital critically ill with COVID-19.
She was distraught, and the chaplain reasoned perhaps they could provide a message of hope.
Peggy dialed and introduced herself before handing the phone to her husband.
Her friendly voice in and of itself served as a kind of testimonial to life after the virus, even in a dire case of infection.
Peggy Jahn, 62, was one of Snohomish County’s early COVID patients. Admitted March 14, she spent 42 days at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, mostly in intensive care, including 25 on a ventilator.
During that time, Steve fretted, prayed and problem-solved. He shared with the woman what it was like to support a loved one he could seldom see because of pandemic-driven restrictions on hospital visitations. He understood that powerless, stuck-at-home feeling she was now experiencing.
In many ways, Peggy is convinced she had the easier road than Steve and their grown children. Her mind was blank while a machine kept her alive; their days were filled with the reality, and often a likelihood, that they could lose her any moment.
“I have questioned, why did I survive?” she said. “Why was I so blessed to be here and be so healthy?”
It is a question she can’t answer.
What she can do is share her gratitude: to Steve and the kids, to friends who watched out for her family when she could not, to her church community and to complete strangers, many in masks and hospital gowns who came and went by her bedside as her body fought the virus.
She knows that many in the medical community are exhausted these days from the relentless waves of COVID patients. The Marysville-area woman thinks about them as she does her best to make the most of a second chance at life.
“They are my heroes,” she said. “I am here because of them.”
Peggy considers herself fortunate. Yes, her throat still feels raspy from the tubes that allowed her to breathe and she calls all the hair she lost her trophy. But her vision is good, her mind is clear, her sense of smell intact.
Recovery has been daunting and successful. Her body atrophied from the weeks of stillness, she had to learn to walk again. The first time she was asked to take a step in the hospital, her legs were unwilling. She strained just to lift her toes.
Nine months later, she’s doing 45-minute American Heart Association workouts via YouTube and she makes sure that the ring icon closes on her Apple watch each day to document her 10,000 steps. She is healthier now than before her illness.
Last week found her up a ladder in a bedroom with a paint brush.
Later this week, around the time of her 32nd anniversary, she will keep a hospital-room promise she made to Steve and renew her wedding vows.
Eric Stevick: firstname.lastname@example.org