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A Chickasaw doctor practicing in Louisiana went from battling Covid-19 on the front lines to fighting for his life. With the help of other health care professionals and the support of his wife and three young children, Dr. Grant Lashley persevered and is now in recovery.

Dr. Lashley was working in an emergency room in April 2020, soon after Covid-19 was declared a national emergency in the United States, and when new cases in the U.S. were reaching around 30,000 a day.

He began to feel ill and decided to get tested.

“We had an outpatient test for Covid-19, influenza and strep,” says Dr. Lashley. “The strep was positive, but so was Covid-19.”

At first, he wanted to self-quarantine and ride the illness out, but when an X-ray revealed a “ground glass” appearance in his lungs, his wife urged Dr. Lashley to visit a Covid-19 unit at Lafayette General Medical Center.

Under observation, Dr. Lashley’s oxygen saturation dropped, and his fever reached 104 degrees. He needed to be put on a ventilator and moved to the ICU. This began 39 days of intubation, with complications including a stroke and the need for dialysis twice.

“On Mother’s Day, my wife had been asked, because things were not looking good, to remove me from life support,” Dr. Lashley said.

She refused and would later recall to Dr. Lashley not being prepared for it. “Even though I’m a provider, and I come in contact with this a lot, my husband came into the hospital sick, but he hadn’t had anything before this. I couldn’t agree to it,” she said.

Dr. Lashley credits a decision by a fellow health care professional for turning things around not long after. Though it was not a common Covid-19 treatment at the time, Dr. Lashley received IV plasma from a person who had recovered from the disease, as well as a steroid called dexamethasone.

“My first question when I came out of ICU was, ‘Did I hurt anybody? Did any of my staff or other doctors come down with what I got?’ Luckily no one close to me got it,” he said.

The full gravity of the situation had not yet set in.

“In my mind, I’m awake now, let’s get back to life,” Dr. Lashley recalled thinking. “But I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t roll over, I couldn’t move my extremities. I had a right wrist drop, left foot drop and a lot of pins and needles in my hands and feet. Initially, I didn’t have a grasp on any of that.”

He spent two weeks in LTAC (long term assisted care), while plans were made for inpatient rehabilitation.

After a four hour ambulance ride, Dr. Lashley arrived at his next stop on the road to recovery: Memorial Hermann in Houston. It meant six more weeks of separation from his wife and children with a rigorous routine every day.

Even so, Dr. Lashley came to see the doctors and therapists helping him recover as unsung heroes. He said though you do not normally see them or hear about them, they are the people who get you back on your feet.

With the worst of it behind him, Dr. Lashley said he found a new appreciation for life and learned a lot about how, as a doctor, he can care for the quality of life of his patients.

“This is one of those life changing events,” he said. “It’s not just about goals and daily life. There are emotional and spiritual components you do not get to face on a daily basis, but maybe you should. You’ve got to make an assessment of life and what’s important.”

Dr. Lashley urges others to take his story as a cautionary tale and to take their own precautions.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Chickasaw Nation has maintained three main recommendations of wearing a mask in public, washing your hands thoroughly and responsibly distancing. Considering the potential of contracting a secondary illness during flu season, getting a flu shot is another way to protect yourself and those around you.

After his inpatient rehabilitation, Dr. Lashley became severely weak and discovered his vitamin B-12 and vitamin D levels were severely low. These can be very important in many body functions, including heart, lungs and nervous system. He recommends everyone have a primary doctor who can check these levels and treat if indicated.

Dr. Lashley is eagerly awaiting the vaccines being delivered, believing now is a very exciting time for health science.

“We have responded rapidly to a world pandemic,” he said.

The next big challenge, according to Dr. Lashley, will be providing people the education and knowledge about becoming vaccinated. In addition to the vaccination, Dr. Lashley was excited about the medical therapies and studies that have helped us combat this virus.

“We have to remember the pandemic has strained the health care workers and the health care systems,” he said. “They have a hard job to protect their staff, patients and families. Front-line providers who are injured in the line of duty should not be forgotten.”

The Louisiana doctor is optimistic about his future. Training is underway for him to hike the Grand Canyon in March 2021 with his therapists from TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) Memorial Herman in Houston. He has progressed to using a walker, soon a cane, and not long after hopes to walk with no assistance. His doctors estimate it will take six months to a year to recover fully.

He continues to play drums and enjoys playing music with his children. He is exploring professional opportunities that might be possible with his limitations. His yellow Labrador retriever, Honey, is just happy to have him home.

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