Middletown woman innocently ate lunch inside, then saw ‘devastating’ impact of coronavirus up close

The Norvell family was happy and healthy last year. This year, the entire family, from left, Allison, Keith, Susan and Sarah, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Keith is in the Intensive Care Unit at University of Cincinnati Hospital. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Caption
The Norvell family was happy and healthy last year. This year, the entire family, from left, Allison, Keith, Susan and Sarah, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Keith is in the Intensive Care Unit at University of Cincinnati Hospital. SUBMITTED PHOTO

A Middletown woman understands how fast the coronavirus can spread and its “devastating” impact.

One month ago, Susan Norvell, who works in the Middletown MidPointe Library System, believes she was exposed to COVID-19 while eating lunch with a co-worker. Norvell said the library follows all the health mandates and every employee must pass a health assessment before work.

But on that day, it was raining, so Norvell ate in the break room instead of in her car.

She tested positive for the coronavirus a few days later. Then her husband, Keith, and her twin daughters, Sarah Fisher and Allison Fisher, tested positive.

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Susan and her 18-year-old daughters, freshmen at Miami Regionals, have recovered from COVID-19, but Keith, 53, is fighting for his life in the Intensive Care Unit at University of Cincinnati Hospital.

Susan visits her husband for one hour every day. She wears two masks and sits outside his hospital room on the COVID-19 floor.

“In the eye of the storm” is how she described the hospital atmosphere.

This week, during his daily coronavirus briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine interviewed Norvell about her family’s experience with COVID-19. Norvell said she was contacted by Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips about being interviewed by DeWine since all four members of the family contacted the virus.

She said her husband, who was born premature and has “tender lungs,” typically suffers from congestion every year. But in early November, he got a fever with extreme muscle aches and pains, though he never lost his sense of smell and taste, signs of the coronavirus.

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On Nov. 8, Norvell said her husband was sitting up in bed at midnight and said he was uncomfortable. She asked if he wanted to go to the hospital. He was afraid if he was hospitalized, he would be placed on a ventilator and never come off, he told his wife.

“That’s like going from A to Z,” she told him.

But then, “that’s exactly what happened in 18 hours,” she said.

He was transported to Atrium Medical Center in Middletown where his oxygen level measured 40 percent. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, then moved to the ICU to receive more oxygen support, his wife said. A few hours later, he was flown from Atrium to UC.

She has been told her husband’s recovery is “a marathon not a sprint.”

He’s not responding to verbal commands, though he doesn’t appear to have any brain damage, she said. Eventually, she said, he may be transferred to a long-term acute care facility.

“It’s a very, very, very long process,” she said.

Norvell said at least two COVID patients on the floor have died, sobering reminders of the severity of the coronavirus.

“It’s devastating,” she said. “I’m in the most terrifying place staring at my husband, fighting for his life.”

She has a message to those who refuse to follow the COVID-19 mandates: “You are choosing to deliberately make a choice to put other people in harm’s way. I used to be an elementary school teacher and we said, ‘Know better, do better.’ People need to do better. We always say, ‘It will happen to the other people.’ We are the other people. Don’t think it’s always the other people. Make intentional choices and do better.”