After battling a severe case of COVID-19 for nearly three months, Rusty Verran has finally won the battle.
Verran, an Elizabethton-resident and associate pastor of Chinquapin Grove Baptist Church in Bluff City, returned home after eleven weeks at medical facilities last week and often fought for his life. For him and his family, his recovery is a miracle.
“He barely held on until we started to see improvement, but we had some really dark days so we just stayed home and prayed for him and prepared to lose him,” said Debbie Verran, Rusty’s wife. “One minute you’ll think, ‘I have to plan a funeral,’ and the next minute, ‘No, I’m not going there. I will not do that. ‘It was a roller coaster ride of emotions. We just didn’t know what was going to happen. “
A hard-fought battle
Rusty tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 23 after catching it from his wife who caught it at her workplace. And while his wife and daughter Ashley had less severe forms of the disease, Rusty was a different story.
“By the third day, he started feeling short of breath and his oxygen levels began to drop to 89-91%,” said Ashley. “Then we took him (to the hospital) and they said that pneumonia had developed and it was pretty bad. Then it started for him. “
Rusty was admitted to Johnson City Medical Center on Thanksgiving Day, and that evening he had already refused. He had 100% high flow oxygen for five days before he was put on a ventilator. A few days later, Rusty’s kidneys failed.
“When he went into septic shock, it was the first time I’ve seen him since he was in the hospital because they called us there and told us he wouldn’t make it or look like would he make it, “said Ashley. “We just asked that they keep doing everything they can for him … and God pulled him off, and it was very unlikely anyone could pull that off.”
A few days later, Rusty improved enough to move from the COVID-19 intensive care unit to the regular intensive care unit. After switching from 24-hour kidney dialysis to a less frequent treatment, Rusty developed metabolic acidosis, which is where too much acid builds up in the body, and respiratory acidosis, which occurs when the lungs cannot remove enough carbon dioxide from the body produced.
“At that point, it crashed pretty quickly that day and we had a choice between just letting it go or trying to ventilate it again,” said Debbie. “Of course we couldn’t bear the thought of letting him go on, so we put him back on the ventilator a second time. So he was back for two or three weeks, on 24 hours of kidney dialysis, until they stabilized him and the acidosis subsided. “
From then on, Rusty showed further signs of improvement. He was weaned off the ventilator, and although he developed a GI bleeding that sent him back to the intensive care unit, he eventually stabilized and got OK to return home.
“The journey for this was like a roller coaster ride,” said Debbie. “It was like every day when there was an improvement on one day and something else went wrong the next day. Basically, it was like this all of the first six weeks before things got better with him and moved in the right direction. “
A warm welcome
When Rusty returned home on February 15, he was surprised to find that 200-300 people had moved to his house by the roadside, all showing their love and support. Among them were members of his church who had prayed for him every night for six weeks, and police officers with whom Rusty had worked before he became a pastor.
“It took me by surprise, people and business owners, as well as neighbors and people from the church,” said Rusty. “You really don’t know how much you are loved until you see something like this.”
Right now, Rusty is focused on regaining his strength after so many weeks of bed rest. After that, he hopes to continue to pursue his passion for service.
“He has a big heart and love for people,” said Debbie. “Service is what God brought him here for, and now I’m sure he’s not done with it yet.”