‘I shouldn’t be here:’ Horry County deputy survives COVID after months in hospital

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 7:08 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - After months of fighting, an Horry County Sheriff’s deputy is finally entering into a new chapter in his recovery from COVID-19.

Deputy Joe “Ski” Muszynski has been battling the illness from a hospital bed for nearly three months.

“I shouldn’t be here, and the doctors would even tell you that. There’s no way that I should even be here,” Muszynski said. “Definitely I had an angel riding on my shoulder the whole time. I can’t explain it. I don’t know its purpose, but somehow I came through it.”

Muszynski has served the Horry County community for over 20 years, as a member of the police department and now sheriff’s office. His post now is at the Magistrate’s Court in Myrtle Beach.

Before COVID, he was a healthy man, and husband and father of two sons. So when he, his wife and his family contracted the virus, he thought he’d have flu-like symptoms. However, as they got better, he did not. The strain he had, he said, destroyed his lungs.

Muszynski said he remembered going home, falling asleep, and when he woke up, he was in the hospital. His wife asked him if he had known how long he’d been there.

“I didn’t have a clue. She was like, ‘Feel your face,” he said.

That’s when he discovered he had grown a beard for weeks.

“When I woke up 33 days later, I thought I was in there for one day. So living nightmare would about explain it,” he said. “And it’s just one of those things where it keeps dragging on and on.”

Muszynski said both his left and right lungs were torn, and the medical team had to put tubes in. He lost over 60 pounds in the days he was hospitalized.

Sgt. Jeff Benton, a close friend and teammate at the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, said Ski was the last person he thought would be hit so hard by COVID.

“10 days pass, 20 days pass, 30 days, 50 days pass,” said Benton. “There were many many days that we believed that the Lord was ready to call him home.”

But instead, Muszynski will soon be called to his family’s home.

He was released after being in the hospital for more than 70 days to a rehab facility, where he’d been undergoing physical therapy. He’s expected to be released this weekend.

“Compared to what I was when I couldn’t say two words, I’m doing much, much better,” he said. “I can walk about 240 feet right now before I have to take a major break for about 10 minutes.”

Friends and family are looking forward to seeing him back home and healthier. There’s still much more rehabilitation to be done, but Muszynski is continuing on the road to recovery.

“Very, very blessed that he has survived this,” Benton said about Muszynski. “The sheriff has made it very clear to him, to his family, and to us: we’re not going to allow him to want for anything. His family, whatever they need, we’re going to provide it to him.”

And once he’s able to, Muszynski can’t wait to get back to serving the community.

“There’s no other rewarding job to me than being able to help your fellow man during good times and bad,” he said.

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