Dunn Mayor William Elmore learned a hard lesson over the past couple months.
“I underestimated COVID,” Elmore said Thursday morning. “I thought it was more of flu-like symptoms that you would have, but it affects everybody differently.”
Elmore returned to his customary center seat at Tuesday night’s city council meeting following a difficult battle with the COVID-19 virus that nearly landed him on a ventilator. Elmore spent 27 days in the hospital following his March 5 diagnosis, receiving oxygen and wondering if he would ever see home again.
“I was really concerned,” said Elmore. “I was really concerned about it and all sorts of stuff runs through your mind when you’re that sick and don’t know what direction it’s going to go. It kind of changes your priorities in life. It gives you a different perspective on life, I’ll tell you that.”
Elmore’s odyssey for survival started like so many others who contracted the deadly coronavirus: His wife’s parents got it, then she got it, then he got it. Unlike the other three, who shook off the sickness in a few days, Elmore faced a much longer and perilous road to recovery. COVID-19 attacked his lungs, causing doctors to give Elmore as much oxygen as possible without putting him on a ventilator.
“They couldn’t increase [the oxygen] any higher,” Elmore said. “I was in trouble for awhile. Breathing was the most difficult. It really had an effect on me and my lungs. I had COVID pneumonia. I was not familiar with that, but it is very real.”
Elmore slowly started feeling better as his recovery progressed. He got to come home, but doctors kept him on oxygen and he attends regular rehab sessions.
“I’m doing much better,” said Elmore. “I’m still a little slow in my recovery, but I’m doing good. I had it pretty bad. It affected my lungs and I’m slowly weening off the oxygen. We’re heading in the right direction. The doctors don’t think there is any permanent damage but no one really knows at this point because the COVID is such a new thing. We’re hoping and praying that there are no long-term effects. My respiratory and pulmonary doctors seem to think that I’m progressing pretty well and it’s just a matter of time. We’ll see what the rehab does and see where we go from there. I’m ready to get off the oxygen.”
Elmore admitted that his excitement over being back in council chambers Tuesday night may have got the better of him.
“It did feel good to be back,” Elmore said. “I’m glad I’m able to be back. I’m limited in what I can do. I presented a couple proclamations that night and kind of wore myself out a little bit. I tried to do too much and went out there without my oxygen, but I got through it.”
With his body getting stronger, Elmore said he is anxious about getting back to work on the path the city laid out for its future.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot of good things going and I’m glad to be a part of it,” said Elmore. “We plan to continue moving forward with city projects we have in place. I’ll be working as much as I can. I’m able to get out for a few hours now and I’m ready to get back into a routine.”
Community encouragement provided Elmore with a glimmer of positive news as he spent nearly a month battling for life.
“I’d like to thank all the citizens and the city staff who have been praying for me,” Elmore said. “It’s meant a lot to me and my family. I’ve had a lot of folks in this town and all around the state reach out to me saying they’re pulling for me, sending me cards, texts and phone calls. I’ve had a lot of support.”
Elmore overestimated COVID-19, leading to a life-changing battle he won’t forget any time soon.
Eliot Duke can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2038.