Triad COVID-19 survivors face ongoing health challenges, medical costs

Coronavirus
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After 22 days battling COVID-19 at UNC Rockingham, Robin Barber was relieved to be out of the hospital. 

A video shot more than a month ago shows nurses cheering her on after she was discharged, but Barber said the celebration was short-lived.

“I just wanted to go home, I thought once I got home things would finally be normal, but once you get in the car it still followed you home,” she said Thursday.

Barber is still on oxygen and doctors told her not to leave her home to avoid exposure. She is fatigued and says she’s noticed cardiac issues she didn’t have before.

“Now I can just get up and walk down the hall to the restroom and my heart is pounding out of my chest,” she said.

Similarly, Jeff Harmon said days on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma took a toll after leaving the hospital.

“I had some blood pressure problems that I had to get regulated and that took about two weeks,” he said. “I really didn’t know what to expect when I went home. I was the first one to be released from Wesley Long Hospital.”

On top of the emotional and physical recovery, Barber explained she and her husband face mounting medical bills.

“The only thing I have to come now is the mailman, and I’m scared to get my mail because I’m worried about now, what bill is coming today? They don’t tell you any of this when you come home but you come home on oxygen, you have to have your home health nurse, and the medications you still have to take,” she said.

Barber canceled home health care services, which costs $180 per visit.

She was initially sent a bill for more than $80,000 and said her insurance under the Affordable Care Act will cover at least $30,000.

“This is my stack of debt right here,” she said, holding a stack of paperwork.

Barber said every time she sees someone leaving the hospital, she can’t help but think of the financial impact.

“I think, this poor soul is going to go through the same thing I’m going through, and in many cases worse than what I am. I was not on a ventilator but I was close twice, and the health issues that I have now I cannot imagine being on that,” she said.

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