‘They need to get this shot’: Greeneville police officer who survived COVID urging folks to get vaccinated

Local Coronavirus Coverage

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Stephen Gosnell is a Captain in the Auxiliary Greeneville Police Department, an employee of the Greeneville Water Commission, a father of two and a husband of 30 years. He had no idea his life would ever hang in the balance due to COVID-19.

Late in December 2020, Gosnell started feeling under the weather. Thinking it was sinus issues, he brushed it off. A few days later, with a temperature over 100 degrees, he got an X-ray from his primary care doctor. A while later, he received a call from her urging him to check himself into the emergency department of the nearest hospital.

“I went to the emergency room and went up there, and my blood oxygen was 70. And he took me back, and I don’t remember nothing else ’til I was on my way to Bristol specialty hospital,” Gosnell said.

He said from then on, he did not remember much.

“As they tell me, it was bad. An induced coma for about a month and a half,” Gosnell said. “I had a trache in my throat, and they had a BiPAP machine on me first and it blew my left lung, they had to put a tube in it. Then they thought they’d cut my throat, trying to get the advantage. I was in about 25 days. So they sent me to Johnson City, and they didn’t tear my throat, the good Lord took care of it.”

A relatively healthy man, Gosnell reflected on being sent to four different hospitals in the Tri-Cities region during an interview Monday morning with News Channel 11. He weighed around 240 pounds before he contracted COVID. After months in intensive care units, he weighed 175 pounds.

“I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t do nothing,” he said.

Upon being discharged from the hospital, having learned to essentially re-use his body, he realized he had become a police officer who couldn’t pull a trigger.

“They did all this OT therapy on me. I didn’t have no pounds of pressure there. So they worked with my hands. And now I can, I mean, I’m still numb here, but you know it tingles. I guess where I laid on it for months and my nerve, my funny bone nerve smashed it,” Gosnell said.

In June, Kim Gosnell had been married to Stephen Gosnell for 30 years. She told News Channel 11 that the pair had been inseparable for 33 years, having spent hardly any time apart in as much time.

“Everybody has their problems and trials, but when they tell me my husband had a 50% chance to live, and it was touch-and-go with him every day, I did a lot of praying,” Kim Gosnell said.

She said she was stunned that as a Type II diabetic she did not get sicker than her healthy husband when the couple contracted COVID-19. She said it’s her goal to assist her husband in his crusade to persuade people to get vaccinated to avoid the fate of their family, or worse.

“My husband, he almost lost his life. So just please get your shot, please get your kids vaccinated,” she said.

The Gosnells said that doctors were astonished by Stephen’s recovery. He told News Channel 11 that his doctor told him they’d never seen a case as bad as his pull through.

Stephen Gosnell said he hopes people who were skeptical before now realize the dangers of COVID-19 and take the proper precautions to prevent disease.

“If they could have seen me up there and seen all that I went through, they wouldn’t have a question about it,” Stephen Gosnell said.

On March 5, Gosnell was released from the Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital in Johnson City.

“Seeing him walk out of Quillen, the day we brought him home on March 5, that was the best day ever,” Kim Gosnell said.

Stephen Gosnell was excited to finally be able to walk again.

“They asked me if I wanted a wheelchair, I said ‘no.’ You know, it humbles you when you can’t do the things that you don’t think about ’til you lose it,” he said.

He explained that it took him nearly six months of physical training to get back to his regular self, back to work after eight months since first going to the hospital.

“If I can tell something to help somebody: they need to get this shot.”

Gosnell explained that after the death of one of his best friends who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine, he and his wife are now on a mission to convince those who remain unvaccinated to get the shot, so as to avoid going through what they did.

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