LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A Lee County mother is regaining her ability to walk and breathe without oxygen after spending 88 days in the hospital with COVID-19. 44-year-old Jennifer Ochs and her family hope her story will encourage others who are struggling with the virus.
News 3 sat down with Jennifer and her husband, Chris, at their Phenix City home. The couple is grateful for the upcoming Christmas holiday and spending time with their three sons and precious granddaughter. The family says they have a lot to the thankful for.
“She is the toughest person I know. The strongest person I know,” said Chris Ochs.
Jennifer started feeling sick a few days before July 3rd when she and her husband tested positive for COVID-19. A week later, Jennifer had difficulty breathing and traveled to East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika. She was quickly admitted through the Emergency Room and placed in ICU with respiratory distress. A week after her hospitalization, Jennifer was placed on a ventilator.
“I remember having a horrible time breathing. I could not breathe at all. But, I do remember face-timing with my kids right before I went on the ventilator.” said Jennnifer.
Jennifer can’t think about that time in her life without crying. She was sedated for two weeks, as her lung function slowly improved. Jennifer then spent another 55 days on the vent, followed by a few weeks of inpatient rehab. Her muscles had atrophied.
“I couldn’t move my legs. I could not scratch my face. I could not do anything,” said Ochs.
Chris remembers helping his wife move.
“I would pick up her leg, and it was just bone and skin; her muscles were all gone. Same with her arm and her shoulders. It was really bad,” said Chris. “I just tried to encourage her and push her if I needed to. I’d say, we have to work, we have to work.”
Jennifer returned to her home to continue her recovery on October 1st. However, a week later, a life-threatening setback sent her to the hospital again.
“I had to go back a week later because I did have clots in my lung. So I had to get those removed,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer says her faith, family, and the medical and physical therapy team kept her going with each setback. She remains on two liters of oxygen around the clock at home. Jennifer works on her physical therapy every day and can now stand and walk with the help of a walker, although she tires very quickly.
“Now, I am just waiting on my lungs to catch up. That’s the biggest thing I need is healing is for my breathing,” said Jennifer.
The couple was not vaccinated and remains unsure of the vaccine. Jennifer says her biggest concern is what the vaccine could do as she continues to recover from the virus.
“I am going to talk to my primary care doctor; I want to follow up with my pulmonologist and see what they think and go from there. We just really aren’t sure,” said Jennifer.
Ochs hopes her continued recovery will provide hope to others who are struggling. In addition, the couple is thankful for their medical team, especially the ICU nurses at East Alabama Medical Center and Jennifer’s Physical Therapy support team.