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Fight and Faith: Topeka woman makes incredible comeback from COVID-19

Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 10:29 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Ardith Griffin showed her spirit to the nation in early November, when CBS News toured Stormont Vail’s COVID unit.

Ardith was getting ready to transfer to rehabilitation, and proudly declared, “I’m a fighter!”

Turned out, she would need every ounce of that fight.

“She quickly, within 12 hours, deteriorated to the point that we had to rush her back to the emergency room at Stormont,” her daughter Stacy Griffin recalls “That’s when the 34 days of fighting for her life started to happen.”

Ardith said she was feeling intense pain and struggled to breath.

“I could not move my arms. I could not move my feet,” she said.

Ardith says she fought.

“Give up is not in my vocabulary,” Ardith said.

But after several weeks, she grew tired.

“We did a group FaceTime with my brothers, and she said, ‘I need you to let me go,’” Stacy said. “It was overwhelming to know that she was literally dying, and we couldn’t be there with her, and we couldn’t hold her hand, or kiss her forehead, or bring her any comfort that a family would bring to a loved one.”

The hospital allowed Stacy and her brothers, Keith and Matt, a visit to say goodbye. What happened next, they say, is a miracle.

“I laid my hands down, and I said, ‘God, I’m ready to come home.’ And in a very audible voice, He said, ‘I’m not ready for you.’ A strength came onto me, and I started fighting again,” Ardith said. “From there, I just came up.”

Less than two weeks later, still too weak to walk or swallow, Ardith was transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska to continue her recovery.

Dr. Andy Moellering, staff hospitalist at Madonna, is part of Ardith’s care team.

“We’ve been learning so much about this virus and how we treat it and how we help people recover from it,” Dr. Moellering said. “I think, in a lot of ways, the play book for how we take care of these patients is being written as the match is still going on.”

Dr. Moellering says many COVID patients have long-term affects from the virus, and each is different - from lung damage and breathing issues, to joint function and brain fog. Much like stroke patients, they take a multi-faceted approach to help them regain function.

“There’s speech therapy to help with communication issues and sometimes swallowing issues; also cognitive, memory, ability to communicate and those types of issues; and then of course we have physical therapy and occupational therapy,” he said.

Ardith has made great strides. She is eating normally, and making progress every day to her ultimate goal.

“I’m bound and determined I’m gonna walk out of here!” she said.

Her battle made a celebration January 11th even sweeter - it was Ardith’s 74th birthday!

“I did not think I would make it,” Ardith said.

Stacy posted on Facebook, asking people to send birthday cards and said her mom is still reading them all.

“We needed all those prayers. We needed all those phone calls,” Stacy said. “She’s getting stronger every day.”

That strength, Stacy says, is why she hopes people take COVID seriously, and not write it off as something only claiming the old or weak.

“When that two or three percent (of patients who do not survive) is your mom, it matters. It just matters,” Stacy said. “She’s our hero.”

If Ardith continues on her current pace, she could go home by the end of the month.

“COVID is real,” she said. “I’m here to tell you prayers are answered.”

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