Mid-South veteran survives battle with COVID-19

Mid-South veteran survives battle with COVID-19
Mid-South veteran survives battle with COVID-19 (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - When a patient survives a life-threatening illness, they often thank the healthcare workers who saved them. But the staff at the VA Medical Center is thanking the patient.

At age 77, with congestive heart failure, COVID-19 became Army veteran Eugene Perkin’s toughest battle.

“When I woke up... I saw all these people in these space suits,” said Perkins.

He spent a week in intensive care at the VA Medical Center in Memphis fighting pneumonia and was eventually victorious over the virus.

“So you have to say thank you,” said Perkins.

Mr. Perkins penned a letter to the VA staff.

“Today I am counting my blessings,” he wrote. “I cannot say enough about the care I received”

He made sure to thank everyone.

“Including the housekeepers, I have to say that. They’d come in and if there was no nurse in there and I said I needed something, they said, ‘Hold on.’ They make sure you got what you needed,” said Perkins.

“To be thanked in such a genuine way, it really meant a lot,” said Carol Mattinson, VA Medical Center nurse.

Nurse Carol Mattison knew about Mr. Perkins, long before he was her patient.

“Before I met him on the COVID unit, I did not know his name, but I was very familiar with him as the karaoke guy,” said Mattinson.

Every Tuesday before the pandemic hit, you would find Mr. Perkins in the VA cafeteria for Karoake Tuesdays.

“Mr. Perkins is well loved in the medical center,” said Mattinson.

Dr. Charles Fraga says Mr. Perkins’ simple gesture of writing a thank you letter lifted so many spirits during this difficult, stressful time.

“When a patient tells you how much your care meant to them, I can’t describe the reward that gives you as a physician,” said Fraga.

Today Mr. Perkins is on the mend, getting around without a walker and grateful for what he calls a “miracle.”

“No ma’am. I’m not lucky, I’m blessed. I tell the world I’m a blessed man,” said Perkins. “I have all these medical conditions already in place. So yes, I’m a blessed man.”

The US Department of Veterans Affairs says there have been 293 COVID-19 cases at the Memphis VA and 13 patients died from the virus.

The Memphis VA services are available to more than 196,000 veterans living in 53 counties in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

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