'Absolutely terrified.' COVID-19 not over for this Kentucky family long after virus hit

Jeremy Chisenhall, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Lifestyles

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Paula Parrish struggles to breathe as she adjusts her oxygen tubes with a mask over her face.

It's been months since she was discharged from the hospital, but she's still in a fight with the long-haul effects of COVID-19. She turned 81 years old on Dec. 15.

She was still "boogieing" when she turned 80, driving family members wherever they needed to go and carrying on with her life. Growing up in a family where the grandparents lived well into their 90s, she didn't think there would ever be a question that she would make it to 81.

One week after her birthday, as she sat in the recliner to which she's often confined because she can hardly walk, her family admitted that over the past few months, they feared she wouldn't get this far.

"We thought we were losing her," said Heather Parrish, Paula's daughter.

Heather, her father, Gorman, and Paula contracted COVID-19. They live together, along with Heather's son Billy Jude. The lingering coronavirus has caused the family hospital visits, financial strife and a seemingly endless procession of "life-and-death decisions."


Heather was the first to get COVID-19 in July. While she was recovering, her 77-year-old father got sick, too.

While his wife would later celebrate her birthday as an achievement in her road to recovery, his birthday, on July 16, wasn't the same. It was the day he tested positive for COVID-19.

The family's two-story home turned into a coronavirus hot spot.

"You think 'well, maybe it's not going to be that bad,'" Gorman said. But it was.


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