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Patient credits CRMC ICU team for keeping him alive

Shane Messer had no idea just how much his life could change in just a matter of months.

It all began in October 2021 when he, his wife Kim and friends went on a trip to Florida and contracted COVID.

“Everyone got COVID,” he said. “But it hit me the hardest, for whatever reason.”

He doesn’t remember the drive back to Cookeville from Florida. Once they did get back home, he and Kim got the positive test results. She was able to qualify for the monoclonal antibodies while his oxygen level was too low and disqualified him for the treatment.

“When we got home, I passed out,” he said. “Kim called an ambulance and took me to the hospital.”

He was admitted to the ICU with 85-90 percent oxygen and on a bipap machine.

“They kept saying they wanted to put me on a ventilator,” he said. “I fought it, was against it.”

He spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and his 50th birthday in the hospital. He also lost family members at the same time.

“On Thanksgiving day, my sister-in-law died from COVID,” he said. “It was devastating”

He lost his father right before he got his new set of lungs.

All Shane could do was pray.

And pray.

“Everyone had given up on me,” he recalled. “Everyone except (ICU nurse) Katina Fryar and my wife.”

But he knows one thing for sure.

“If it weren’t for the nurses and the team in the ICU and a lot of people praying for me, I know I would not be here,” he said.

The ICU staff made efforts to let his wife see him, despite the strict visitation policies in place at the time.

“They knew how important it was for her to be with me to encourage me to get better,” he said.

He and Kim thought that he could get out by Christmas, but medical professionals were telling him he needed to sign up for a lung transplant to live.

He still had a long road ahead. He received his new lungs Feb. 11 and went back to work June 3, earlier than anticipated.

Recently, he came back to Cookeville Regional for a reunion and met the people who cared for him in his darkest days.

“I got the best treatment from the people here,” he said. “It’s weird seeing them now because I am walking and not on machines.”

Fryar said she never gave up on him.

“I knew he was a fighter from the beginning,” she said. “If he had gotten on the vent, he wouldn’t have qualified for a lung transplant.”

Cookeville Regional CEO Paul Korth said that despite challenging situations, such as COVID’s multiple variant waves that brought patients of all ages in, nurses do make a difference.

“Nurses come here to learn from the best and do everything they can to save lives,” he said. “Healthcare is very challenging, especially to those on the front lines, but when a patient comes in, we do everything in our power to make it the best experience possible. Mr. Messer’s testimony proves that nurses do make a difference.”