Marilyn Adams Pope and her daughter, Nina Adams, know all too well about the coronavirus COVID-19.
They’ve had it. And so did Pope’s son, Jeffrey Adams, of Macon.
Pope, a local beautician for more than 40 years who recently celebrated her 75th birthday, nearly died from the disease and had to be hospitalized and placed on a ventilator because of the difficulty she had in breathing.
Her daughter and son didn’t get as sick as their mother and fortunately didn’t have to be hospitalized.
Pope and Adams were among the first local residents to be strickened by the potentially deadly virus after the pandemic hit Milledgeville and Baldwin County back in mid-March.
“We started getting sick that first weekend of April,” recalled Adams during a recent telephone interview with The Union-Recorder. “My mother was already feeling kinda bad before then.”
Pope said her symptoms began with sinus and allergies.
“I had a real bad sinus infection and I called my doctor and asked him to prescribe something for me,” said Pope, who owns and operates The Roots Hair Salon & Boutique. She also is retired from Central State Hospital where she worked for 34 years.
Adams and her mother live together and she, too, was experiencing similar symptoms.
“My symptoms started off in the same way as my mother’s,” said the 51-year-old Adams, who works in the health field.
Adams said she got to feeling so bad that she went to a local urgent care provider, and later called her mother to come there, too.
“That was on April 8,” Adams said. “They sent me to the ER at Navicent Health Baldwin, immediately. They told me to go straight there and not to go home and pack anything, or even stop at the McDonald’s drive-thru, but to go straight on over there to the hospital.”
Adams said she stayed at the hospital from that afternoon into the night before she was released to go home with medication.
She underwent breathing treatments while at the hospital.
The diagnosis was pneumonia.
“My mother was sent home, and she was tested on April 8 for COVID-19 like I was,” Adams said, noting that her condition was worse than her mother’s at that time.
A week passed and still, neither of them seemed to be getting better. They weren’t eating and began getting weaker and weaker as a result.
“By the 15th of April, I realized my mother wasn’t doing good at all,” Adams said. “She was coughing and coughing and wasn’t eating.”
Adams said she began thinking that she and her mother had the disease.
“Through all of this, everybody I know and people I don’t even know were praying for me,” said Pope, who along with her husband, Alonza, have three grown children and raised another child, too. “Their prayers helped God heal me and I believe I can do what I used to do now.”
Adams remembered that her mother took some medicine and she was able to eat a little bit of oatmeal on the morning of April 15.
“It was mid-morning, then she fell back asleep,” Adams said.
“She was so weak, she couldn’t put the bottle of water to her mouth,” Adams said. “I held the water up to her mouth and while I did that she lifted herself up and she was very sweaty. I squeezed that bottle of water on her and it went onto her chest, but she didn’t even feel it.”
Pope’s fever had apparently reached a high-mark.
Her daughter grew concerned and called for personnel with Grady Emergency Medical Services.
Via ambulance, EMS personnel took Pope straight to the local hospital.
“That’s the last thing I remembered for two and a half months,” Pope said.
She was admitted into the hospital and was later placed in the Intensive Care Unit.
Adams said the next day she received word that her mother was going to be placed on a ventilator and that she knew about it.
During that time, relatives of patients were able to receive information about loved ones only through telephone calls because a no visitor policy had been put in place at the local hospital, like so hundreds of other hospitals across the nation.
“That was the hardest part — not being able to go to the hospital to be with my mother,” Adams lamented. “We were able to talk with her once while she was in Navicent Health Baldwin.”
On the same night that Adams spoke with her mother, she and other members of the family thought Pope was getting better.
“Her voice sounded so much stronger, but as time went by, my mother got worse and worse,” Adams said.
Meanwhile, Adams continued to quarantine at the family home in Carrington Woods.
Since Pope’s medical condition began declining so rapidly, the doctor involved with her care decided it best to transfer Pope to The Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon.
Adams said one of her mother’s lungs collapsed while she was still in the local hospital. The other one collapsed after she was flown by helicopter to the Macon hospital.
“She also had respiratory arrest,” Adams said. “I was so afraid my mother wasn’t going to make it. We were all afraid she wasn’t going to make it out of the hospital.”
Pope was in the hospital for more than a month before she started getting better and was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Macon for a little more than a month.
Eventually, she was released to return home in mid-June.
Pope and Adams attribute the miraculous turnaround to God’s loving mercy.
“He heard our prayers and the prayers of our those in our prayer circle and that’s really why my mother is here today,” Adams said. “I believe that with all my heart.”
Pope and Adams have no idea where they might have contracted COVID-19. The same is true of Pope’s son, a long-distance truck driver.
Pope said she couldn’t be happier than she is today.
“I’m so glad to be back home,” Pope said, noting at one point when she was so terribly sick that she had been laying in bed for such a long period she no longer could stand on her own or walk. “That’s why I had to go to rehab so I could learn to walk again.”
She said COVID-19 had sickened her so badly that she was unable to turn over in bed.
“They started me out on a walker at first and I was on it for a couple of weeks,” Pope said. “I was determined that I was not going to be using a walker to walk the rest of my life. I wanted my independence back and to be able to go to the bathroom when I needed to go. It’s pretty bad when some old person has to call somebody to take them to the bathroom or they have to use a bedpan.”
She recalled that she told God she had to get up from that bed.
After about two weeks using a walker, Pope learned to walk on her own again.
When she was released from the rehab center, Pope went and stayed with another daughter, Regina, at her home in Powder Springs for about four months.
She is now living back in Milledgeville.
“I’ve been back here about three weeks,” Pope said. “And it feels so good. I am so very blessed.”
Pope is convinced that she wouldn’t have survived COVID-19 had it not been for God and the prayers she received when she was so sick.
“God heard all of those prayers and God spared my life,” Pope said, noting that one of those leading the way with prayer aside from family and friends and her church family was her former pastor, now retired, the Rev. Theodore (TO) Rockmore at ElBethel Baptist Church in Milledgeville.
Adams said they have an “amazing" prayer circle.
Adams said she and her mother serve an “awesome God.”
“We serve a loving, almighty God and He deserves our praise and worship,” Pope said.
The two women also extended thanks to doctors and nurses at Navicent Health Baldwin hospital in Milledgeville, as well as The Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon.
“We can’t thank them enough for saving my mother’s life,” Adams said.
She and her mother said they would never forget the medical care they received from both hospitals.
Meanwhile, Pope is back working some at her beauty shop and driving her car again wherever she decides she wants to go.
And because the two women have gone through the experience of COVID-19, they want to send a clear message to others in the community.
“This is not a hoax,” Pope said. “This is a real disease and it can kill you if you get it. You need to wear a mask everywhere you go and you need to remember to wash your hands often and to social distance from others by at least six feet.”