About six months ago, Ron Thomas became obsessed with walking.
The 67-year-old Hoover resident says he was in good shape, had no health issues and was not overweight. But something moved him to get moving.
“While I was walking, I would be praying,” he said. “I would say, ‘God, I don’t know what you’re preparing me for but, whatever it is, I thank you.’”
After battling the novel coronavirus, Thomas is thankful to be alive. Despite the disproportionate rate of death from COVID-19 among African Americans, particularly men, Thomas went from being too weak to lift his head to raising his hands in praise.
“I truly believe,” he said of his daily walks, “God was preparing me for this fight against the coronavirus.”
There are likely no studies to confirm Thomas’ conclusion. There is no research to back his assertion. But the man who recently became a grandfather for the fourth time isn’t spouting what he can prove. He’s proclaiming his belief that he was divinely delivered.
Despite calling himself a shy, unassuming person, Thomas has been vocal about having overcome COVID-19.
Thomas remembers being tired at work on Friday, April 17. A day later, his appetite was gone.
“I didn’t eat all day that Saturday,” he said. “Sunday, my wife took my temperature and it was up to 99.”
Thomas and his spouse, Donna, decided they would isolate themselves even though he was scheduled to go to work that Monday.
“I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’ll be fine. I’ll go to work,” Thomas said. “She said, ‘We’ll check your temperature in the morning.’”
When he rose Monday, Thomas’ temperature had risen to 103. Donna, a recently retired registered nurse case manager, called UAB to schedule a test for her husband. After testing Tuesday, a ‘negative’ came back Wednesday, but the patient felt no better.
“I was still feeling bad so on that Thursday we went to see my primary care physician,” he said. “He gave me some medicine and told me to take that and if I’m still feeling bad on Friday morning to go to the hospital.”
The couple had already decided Thursday night that they would head to Brookwood Baptist Princeton Medical Center.
“I was feeling so bad, and so weak at this point,” Thomas recalled. “I probably hadn’t eaten in about a week.”
A fever, fatigue and a lack of appetite were Thomas’ primary symptoms. He never lost his sense of taste or smell; he never struggled to breathe; his thoughts never became clouded.
“I was really feeling so bad I couldn’t hold my head up,” he recalled. “They took some chest X-rays and the doctor said clinically I had the coronavirus. At that point they admitted me to the hospital.”
The couple would have to separate. After saying their goodbyes, the nurse put him into a wheelchair and pushed him toward the door.
“I could see Donna’s reflection in the glass,” he remembers. “I just held my hand up and I could see her hold up her hand. I could see the hurt on Donna’s face that she could not be there with me.”
Eventually pneumonia was added to Thomas’ diagnosis. “The doctor seemed to think that I contracted the virus first,” he said, “and then I developed pneumonia.”
Thomas, a deacon at First Baptist Church of Powderly, said he never thought that he would die from the virus. He learned later that results from his bloodwork were in line with patients on ventilators in the intensive care unit.
“I think it was just God not allowing me to have to go into the intensive care unit,” he said. “He took care of me.”
While in the hospital, Thomas was treated with the antibiotics doxycycline and cefdinir.
Thomas recalls that Saturday as being his lowest point. He was feeling so badly, he said, “that I truly believe that God told me that He would fight the coronavirus for me that day because I was too weak. I could not take it on anymore.”
Sunday morning brought a new perspective. Thomas could see the sun shining in and the reflection of the sun on the door. It appeared to be “a bright presence in the room.
“I began to feel better,” he said, “and on that evening, my appetite started coming back. I was able to eat a little more. I started to really think that I was going to come through, that I was going to be discharged in a couple of days.”
Indeed, Thomas ended his 5-day hospital stay that Tuesday, greeted by family and other well-wishers as he was wheeled out. Two hours later, he was at Grandview Medical Center – for the birth of his latest grandchild, Dallas Alexander Clark.
Since his discharge, Thomas has had no lingering symptoms beyond needing to rebuild his stamina through walks inside and around his house.
“God brought me out of the hospital on that Tuesday, April 28, so He could deliver our grandson,” Thomas said. “I just give God all the praise, all the glory and thank God for what He did.”