Ed Coleman called it. He said he would return to meet and thank the staff who cared for him.

Although everyone hoped this would come true, the odds at times were stacked against him. Coleman’s return to where he spent six months battling COVID-19 was as therapeutic for the clinicians as it was for he and his wife Charlene.

In late September, a small reunion at the Richmond VA gave staff who cared for Coleman – and Charlene – the opportunity to celebrate his recovery.

Coleman thanks a staff member at his recovery reunion.

“It was a completion of the circle,” Charlene explained. “He was happy to be able to thank the medical staff who helped save his life. It was an extremely uplifting experience for the staff and for my husband.”

When Coleman began to feel bad early in the pandemic, he tried to tough it out. That was a trait he forged while serving with the 7th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. Ultimately, he reached a point where breathing became too difficult and he sought help at Richmond VA.

Six weeks in ICU in induced coma

At the height of his illness, Coleman spent six-weeks in intensive care in an induced coma, intubated and fighting a case of double pneumonia. Throughout the experience, Charlene visited him often and developed a relationship with several clinicians who cared for her husband.

“They were kind and considerate and did not seem to be bothered talking to me daily,” she said. “They treated Ed very well. The medical staff and Ed became friends. They made him feel that his well-being was important to them… and it was.”

One day, a physical therapist caring for Coleman organized an opportunity for Charlene to see him. The therapist made a sign that read “I love you Charlene” and ensured Ed was waiting at his window.

“Bringing the rehab process full circle.”

“It had been quite some time since they’d seen one another, so it was a very special moment to witness,” said Rizelle Baul, an occupational therapist who cared for Coleman. “To see him walking unassisted and healthier brings the rehab process full circle for me and my peers. Opportunities like this don’t come often.”

Charlene kept notes throughout her husband’s stay. She wrote a book which chronicles their experience while he was sick, at a time during the pandemic when effective treatments were unknown and vaccines were unavailable.

“Ed and I enjoy adventures,” Charlene said. “We are not shy and usually approach new challenges with an anticipation of a positive outcome. That’s why I knew Ed would live and survive COVID-19.”

By David Hodge is the acting public affairs officer and Jason Miller is a visual information specialist, both at the Central Virginia VA

Share this story

Published on Dec. 2, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.2 min.

Views to date: 203

More Stories

  • When Army Veteran Rodney Bennett’s medical provider recognized he was food insecure, VA’s homeless program stepped in to help.

  • A claims representative has been assigned to Little Rock VA hospital satellite office to assist Veterans, spouses and survivors with their VA benefits needs.

  • Housebound Veterans are winners when they combine virtual and in-home health care visits. Susan Gallagher receives hybrid care, both virtual and in-person.