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“I’m hungry!” Husband calls wife’s dramatic recovery from COVID-19  a ‘miracle’

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Leola Jackson was in palliative care at Vision Nursing Home and fighting a losing battle with the coronavirus.

The end was near, and John Jackson was preparing for his wife of 28 years to die at any moment. Forced apart by the home’s lockdown, he could only watch on FaceTime.

Then something amazing happened, he said. She opened her eyes. She began to talk.

“She mumbled, ‘Holy (expletive) I’m hungry!” he recalled.

Leola Holland hadn’t eaten anything for more than five days.

“My daughter, who is a nurse, was convinced she wouldn’t last the night. But if you ever believe in miracles, this was one,” he said.

Leola Jackson, 68, has dementia and has lived at Vision Nursing Home for nearly three years. She was among the home’s first four residents to test positive for COVID-19 in late April.

Since then, Vision has been locked in a heartbreaking struggle with the virus and remains the scene of Sarnia-Lambton’s largest outbreak.

Leola and John Jackson, on Leola’s 65th birthday.
Submitted Photo

John Jackson was away on holiday and returned to Sarnia in March just as Ontario was banning visitation to long-term care homes.

“I was worried I wouldn’t see my wife alive again,” he said.

Shortly after contracting COVID-19 Leola’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she was moved to palliative care.

The family was allowed one person to visit, but John disqualified himself because of his age and underlying health issues. Instead, daughter Laura Van Dinther suited up in PPE to hold her hand.

“I had resigned myself that there wasn’t a lot of chance Leola would survive,” said John. Their daughter sat with her while he watched on FaceTime.

Then Leola’s eyes opened.

“I’m told it’s almost unheard of to get out of palliative care,” he said.

He and his daughter still laugh about the word that tumbled out of Leola’s mouth when she awoke hungry.

“She’s been eating ever since,” he said.  “She’s having regular meals now and walking again with assistance.”

Vision Nursing Home has been devastated by COVID-19. As of today, 26 residents and 28 staff members had contracted the virus and 10 residents had died.

Overall, Sarnia-Lambton’s infection rate has been declining for weeks, with just 14 active cases today.

Jackson is as shocked by his wife’s recovery as her doctor, but she’s made of strong stuff, he said.

“Leola is a former rehab nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital, then Bluewater Health, and she’s a stubborn old Dutch girl. She’s not done with me yet,” he said.

“That makes us smile.”

Jackson is still unable to visit because Vision remains under lockdown.

“It’s been a nightmare for them there,” he said. “But under the circumstances, they’re doing the best they can.”

He calls often, sometimes in the middle of the night, to check on Leola’s condition.

“They are always willing to talk to me and help in any way they can. I just hope the virus gets contained soon.

“I look forward to seeing my wife again and taking her for walks.”


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