Greeneville man survives 12 days on ventilator, talks rocky road to recovery

Local Coronavirus Coverage

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – After surviving 22 days in the hospital, 12 of which were spent on a ventilator, a Greeneville man recalls his fight against COVID-19.

John Mabe, 49, told News Channel 11 that he was unvaccinated when he started feeling symptoms akin to a sinus infection.

He said he remembers little about the first few weeks after his diagnosis, describing how he could not remember his doctor prescribing him medicine or how it came to be in his possession until family members told him what had happened.

Mabe recalls phoning a friend in Rogersville who grew worried. That friend then contacted Mabe’s boss who lives about three miles away and enlisted him to do a welfare check.

“They come and checked on me and they said when they got here I was laying on the couch and my oxygen was like 62, and I was just minutes from losing consciousness, I guess,” he said.

He recalled thinking that he was on the mend and that he would just go to bed when his oxygen levels plummeted.

“It’s been a learning experience because I mean I ain’t never had my oxygen levels drop like that. I was laying on the couch didn’t even know. If I wouldn’t have called that boy, if he wouldn’t have called my boss, I’d probably laid there and suffocated,” Mabe said.

The single father of an 11-year-old boy named Trevor said that he lives alone and that he did not want to think about what would have happened if someone had not come to check on him.

John Mabe is on supplemental oxygen due to a weak heart post-COVID

He recalled that the ambulance driver thought he was drunk, but that he’d not had a drink since his son was born and attributed his delirium to lack of oxygen.

Mabe arrived at Greeneville Community Hospital where one of the emergency department nurses happened to be an acquaintance of his who helped him understand what was about to happen next.

“I might have been there two days, I really don’t know but it felt like I just arrived and the first word I heard was ‘ventilator,’ so I just freaked out,” Mabe said. “You hear the stories, one out of two survive it. I mean you don’t hear nothing positive.”

As an unvaccinated person, Mabe told News Channel 11 that he’d seen the statistics and that he understood that roughly 50% of unvaccinated people with COVID-19 do not survive after intubation.

He said the worst part was not getting to see his son Trevor, who Mabe said contracted COVID from his dad.

“He just couldn’t understand how he just got a little sick and daddy couldn’t talk,” Mabe said.

Because Mabe lives alone, he receives home healthcare checks. After a week in a rehabilitation facility, he learned how to breathe more efficiently, but also that he has to take it easy when exercising, and by “exercising,” Mabe said it was more like walking a few feet at a time.

“COVID does something to your heart rate, my heart rate is hardly going under 100 even sitting around,” he said.

A few minutes after conducting the interview with News Channel 11 Friday, Mabe demonstrated how he takes his heartrate. The monitor read that he had a 119-120 beats per minute heart rate.

John Made measures his heart rate and it reads 120 BPM

Mabe explained that he lost nearly 50 lbs during his bout in the hospital.

As an operator at a local chemical plant, Mabe said he is worried about not being able to keep up with the physical demands of his job.

I work in a chemical plant so you’ve got to wear a respirator every once in a while and you’ve got to take a test and stuff and I mean, it’s a lung test and here I’ve been put on a ventilator,” he said.

He thanked every person who prayed for his speedy recovery while he was in the intensive care unit.

Mabe said he decided not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“My doctor’s on me about it, he said ‘I’m going to schedule your appointment and you’ll be in here in two and a half months to get this shot.’ And I mean, I ain’t saying I won’t change my mind in two and a half months, but at this point, I ain’t gonna take it,” he said.

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