Brunswick County mother on the road to recovery after 124-day hospital stay for COVID-19

Jennifer Helms
Jennifer Helms(WECT)
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 6:50 PM EST
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ASH, N.C. (WECT) - Across the country, more than 77 million people have had the coronavirus. Some of those victims aren’t with us anymore, and others like Jennifer Helms had to fight for their life.

The stats and oxygen saturation levels showing up on Helms’ pulse oximeter Wednesday afternoon continue to be a relief to her family and caretakers. Her condition is improving each day — a far cry from the critical levels her respiratory therapists saw in her 124-day stint in the hospital for COVID-19.

At one point, doctors gave her a two percent chance she’d survive.

“The odds are not good but Jennifer is — she’s our miracle,” said respiratory therapist Kelly Shaw.

Respiratory therapists Kelly Shaw and Cindy Smith met Helms when she entered the hospital this summer, and followed her journey until she was discharged 124 days later.

The women instantly clicked. Having spent so much time together over the past year, Shaw and Smith essentially became part of the Helms family.

In the weeks Helms wasn’t allowed visitors, the nurses and respiratory therapists who cared for her were the only people she was able to see.

Videos of the day she was discharged from Novant Brunswick show staff cheering, waving pom-poms and holding signs as Helms was rolled out on a gurney to be taken to the recovery center. Hospital staff can be overheard wishing the family well, reminding them to stay in touch, and hugging her husband, Ted, as he held a bouquet of flowers.

“It’s just lots of praying and family, [Ted’s] been by my side every day; he’s been my rock — him and God,” said Jennifer Helms. “Science says I’m not supposed to be here, but prayer and my family and the churches out here — prayer brought me through all this.”

It’s been eight weeks now since she was allowed to return home, and like most COVID patients that were on a ventilator, recovery is a long, hard road.

She’s still on oxygen and doing regular physical therapy to get her strength back up, but it’s the tiny victories that keep her and her family going.

”Just this week, just now I’ve been able to close the recliner myself,” said Helms. “It’s been a rough journey — it still is — but just not giving up, keep praying, keep it goin’, don’t give up.”

The Brunswick County mother can even walk a few short steps on her own now, but it’s her resolve: as steady and ever-present as the hum of the oxygen machine that her team of supporters says will drive her continued recovery.

“We see the good, the bad, and the ugly, so seeing Jennifer being able to come out of it the way that she did is hope for all of us,” said Shaw.

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