In early March, Navy veteran Cherud Wilkerson was admitted to Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. Less than 24 hours later, the 58-year old was sedated and on a ventilator in the intensive care unit (ICU). He had contracted COVID-19 when there were still many unknowns surrounding the virus.
Maybe it was his strong faith, his military training or the last words his wife spoke to him before taking him to the emergency department. Regardless of what inspired him, somehow Cherud defied the odds and became “The One.”
This nickname was given to Cherud by the nurses who cared for him while he was in the hospital because he was the facility’s first for many things.
This includes being the first COVID-19 patient to survive the ventilator in those early days and the first patient to receive a “Be There Bear.”
During Cherud’s two-week ICU stay, his wife, Natacha, received regular updates from his care team as hospital visitors were not allowed. As days went by and Cherud remained on a ventilator, Natacha became afraid to answer those calls for fear she would hear some life-shattering news. However, the call she feared never came. Instead, one day she finally heard her husband’s voice on the other end of the line and a massive weight was lifted.
Following Cherud’s release from the ICU, he was transferred to another unit to undergo physical and occupational therapy after being immobile for two weeks. Due to losing more than 40 pounds of mostly muscle mass, he was unable to walk on his own at first. However, Cherud was determined to gain his strength back.
Rather than wait for physical therapy sessions to rebuild his strength, Cherud started practicing Kata, a jiu-jitsu movement that engages all of the muscles in the body. He used the tile pattern on the floor in his room to practice his kata each night between nursing rounds.
Shortly thereafter, Cherud was cleared from physical therapy and was discharged home after a total of 21 days in St. Mary’s Hospital.
As he was wheeled out to see his wife for the first time in three weeks, staff members lined the hallways to celebrate “The One.”
Recently, Cherud was able to reunite with the St. Mary’s team members responsible for saving his life. Six months after he was admitted to the hospital, he returned to a courtyard outside the hospital to swap stories, share his gratitude and inspire hope.
Cherud used this opportunity to give back and encourage the health care heroes who saved his life as they continue to battle COVID-19. For the staff members, this was an opportunity they don’t normally have, and they shared they will certainly never forget it.
Stay updated on what Bon Secours is doing related to COVID-19.