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82-year-old woman in hospice care wins battle with coronavirus

Dementia patient Phyliss Shephard was sent to hospice care after becoming ill with COVID-19, her doctors didn't think she would make it. But now she is virus free!

One of the hardest things for families who lose a loved one to COVID-19 is that they're alone at the end of their life and they can't be there to hold their hand, and say goodbye.

So when 82-year-old Phyliss Shepherd's family was told she needed to be moved to hospice care, that the virus was killing her, they rushed to her window, hoping to say goodbye. 

However, in their final moments together, they witnessed an incredible recovery story. 

Phyliss Shepherd still knows all the words to Amazing Grace. 

"There's a lot of things she may not remember, but she still remembers how to play the piano, she still remembers songs," said her son, Ricky Shephard. 

Phyliss has lived at Brighmoor nursing home in Griffin for a year with dementia. But it doesn't stop her husband and five boys from visiting and singing every day. 

Credit: 11Alive

"Humor and the lord, that's what carries us through everything. That's how she's raised us and we got here, we sang with her," said Ricky. 

Even through her illness, her son Ricky said his Mom never stopped making them laugh. 

"How do you feel? Well, I feel alright, until I see y'all," she said with a laugh.

If Phyliss can crack a joke, she's feeling alright. 

"Well you look good," Ricky said when he saw her. 

"I know," she laughed. 

But a few weeks ago, the laughs stopped coming when Phyliss fell incredibly sick with COVID-19. 

The doctors and nurses who care for her didn't think she could pull through. 

"We got a call Wednesday, was a week ago, that they wanted her in hospice. They said you might want to come to see her the next day. So we all came the next day, expecting the worst. And when we got here she was alert, talking to us. Making jokes," he said. 

The staff saw a spark in her eyes, and just knew she would be alright. Her family said her recovery is nothing short of miraculous. 

"That's how she looked about two weeks ago! In the hospital, and you see how she looks today," he said.

The staff at Brightmoor says she always looks radiant, but she lights up when her 94-year-old husband, Harold, comes to her window. 

"It was an answered prayer, definitely an answered prayer," he said. 

The family doesn't know what's next for Phyliss, but today, she can smile, and she can sing. She has recovered from COVID-19 and she's not the only one at Brightmoor to do so.

The nursing home had a parade for 55 of their patients who recovered from the virus. Sadly, they are mourning the loss of 18 patients and said they are not 100 percent sure the deaths are related to coronavirus. 

Darcy Watson is the Vice President of Operations for Westbury Administrative Services and said their residents are like their family. 

They're being incredibly careful, they know they're serving an at-risk population and it's just been all hands on deck 24 hours a day. 

They were facing a PPE shortage at the beginning, so the staff got together and paid $8 apiece for each resident to have their own N95 masks, they thought it was that important. 

Watson also said they tested every single person in the facility early on and were proactive in implementing plans. 

"Nursing homes cannot do the one single thing that has proven to be the preventative measure for contracting this disease which is social distance. Despite issuing each resident an N-95, the virus unleashed its fury and we had a hard time getting ahead of it before we lost some of our beloved. We’ve begun to compare ourselves to a cruise ship that’s boarded with the most vulnerable and compromised of passengers."

She said all of their staff has been vital in the recovery for the patients. They plan to host a party once the threat from the virus is over to celebrate all of their residents. 


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