How faith, positivity and the number seven helped this Detroit mom and wife find strength in her scariest hour.
MICHIGAN — The number seven means a lot to Rheamie Pozon Crenshaw.
She’s the youngest of seven children, born in the seventh month of the 70th year of the century. Explaining that it is God’s number of completion, Crenshaw said it was extremely meaningful to her to be released from the hospital as a coronavirus survivor — on her seventh day there.
“I was just praying that the seventh day … was my day of completion, and it was,” said the Detroit resident. “I always give thanks to God for waking me up, every day.”
Crenshaw, 49, is a married mother of three grown children who works as an office manager for Ford-Tel Medical Center in Dearborn Heights. The office, she said, was being very careful to follow all the precautions as the novel Coronavirus made its way to Michigan in early March, but she doesn’t think she contracted the virus at work.
Instead, she said she’s pretty sure she caught it at the grocery store, where she spent “hours in line waiting for the checkout” as shoppers swarmed stores to stock up on supplies, some of whom were coughing and sneezing.
It was March 12 that she first noticed pain in her left leg and lower back. She chalked it up to sciatic nerve pain, but the following day she felt like she was coming down with the flu. Hot sweats and chills followed and by March 15, “my body started to go on overdrive.”
“I could feel every single nerve. My left calf felt like somebody cut it open. Everything tasted like metal and salt to me.”
Crenshaw said she went to see her doctor, who said that Crenshaw was showing signs of COVID-19 and gave her a breathing treatment and oxygen to help. Crenshaw has diabetes and a history of asthma, but said that she hadn’t experienced trouble like this for years.
“I was feeling very weak. Thursday, the 19th, I was sitting in my chair at home gasping, like I was drowning in water.”
That’s when her husband, Geno, took her to Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn to be tested.
They joined the long line of cars, but when a nurse came to check on Crenshaw’s symptoms, they immediately sent her to the front of the line. She was in an emergency room bed within 10 minutes.
A chest X-ray showed viral pneumonia in both of her lungs. Two days later, tests confirmed that she had the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Doctors tried to manage Crenshaw’s symptoms with oxygen and Tylenol and gave her the option of trying the combination of a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, and the antibiotic azithromycin, better known as Z-Pak. The combination has worked for some patients, but after a few doses she went into ventricular tachycardia, and the treatment had to be immediately stopped.
After cardiologists were able to calm her racing heart, Crenshaw was given steroids and oral antibiotics instead.
On her seventh day of hospitalization, she was released.
She said she believes her faith and focusing on the positive allowed her to survive.
“Staying positive and keeping your body active, as much as you can, even if it’s the little thing of sitting up, work your way to stand up and then sit back down so your body can fight, and lots of prayer,” she said.
Her family video-conferenced her often so that she knew how much love, support and prayers were being sent her way. Although she knew a few people through her social network that died from the virus, “I kept telling myself and my family that, ‘Your little sister is getting out of here.’”
Staying away from negative news and finding other ways to distract herself, such as watching game shows and listening to jokes, helped, she said.
“The fear is what is going to make it worse for everybody,” she said. “No one’s hearing about the positive people who are coming out.”
As of 4 p.m. March 26, Beaumont is caring for 650 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and another 200 with pending tests. The health system has decided to dedicate surge capacity for more COVID-19 patients at Beaumont Hospital, Wayne.
“The Beaumont, Wayne team has the expertise and ability to respond quickly to meet the needs of our COVID-19 patients,” said Beaumont Health Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Wilson in a press release. “When patients come to a Beaumont hospital to seek care for COVID-19, our physicians will assess them. If the hospital does not have the capacity to care for the patient, we will transfer more COVID-19 patients to Beaumont Hospital, Wayne.”
Now, Crenshaw said she is working hard to recover.
“I won’t be 100% for a couple months. Last night, it was rough trying to breathe. I was still gasping a little bit because I still have to have my lungs get a little stronger. I walk around as much as I can,” she said.
Through it all, she said, she was lucky that her husband has not contracted the virus.
The couple were planning to renew their marriage vows for their 17th anniversary in October, but Geno Crenshaw instead proposed to his wife again, over video, when he learned she had beat the virus.
Although she still has to be careful because her doctors told her that the virus could come back, Crenshaw said she is continuing to remain upbeat.
“You can survive this. You just have to fight,” she said. “Everybody’s fighting the fight together, so we have to stick together.”
A fundraiser has been set up to help pay for Crenshaw’s medical bills. To donate, click here.