Jones County Health Director welcomed home after months-long COVID battle

Wesley Smith was diagnosed with coronavirus in September. Soon after, he was sedated and wouldn’t remember multiple near-death moments and the death of his wife.
Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 7:40 PM EST
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TRENTON, N.C. (WITN) - It was a warm welcome home for Jones County Health Director Wesley Smith after a grueling three-month-long battle with COVID-19.

Wesley Smith’s co-workers greeted his arrival back to his old office Monday morning after he was released from the hospital.

“Just a blessing to see everyone out there,” said Smith, “I don’t remember all that, and I’m thankful that I don’t remember, because there were some rough times there. I hear that my heart stopped for about 20 seconds at one time.”

It was September when he and his wife tested positive for COVID-19. His condition was so bad, he was sedated.

He doesn’t remember multiple near-death experiences or how his wife’s fight with the virus would end with an unfortunate death.

“I’ve still got a way to go with my rehabilitation,” said Smith.,“But I’m not going to have my wife there. That’s the most difficult thing that I’m having to deal with.”

After months of trading hospital beds for physical therapy, his county co-workers surprised him Monday morning with a welcome home parade with town and county firetrucks, ambulances, and lots of love.

“Look around,” said Interim County Health Director Ann Pike.,“He’s very well-thought-of in the county. We’re ready to get him back to work where he belongs.”

Smith was released Friday from UNC Lenoir Hospital after being transported many times between UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Hillsborough, and being placed on a ventilator.

“He’s been here with the county for a while,” said Jones County Manager Franky Howard. “He has a lot of friends and neighbors here. And we’ve been supporting him all along.”

Smith is now recovering from his battle with his kids at his side. He’s aiming to return to work part-time in February and eventually return to his position full-time when he feels up to it.

“I hope if anything, it does send some kind of a message to our county of just what can happen,” said Smith. “You don’t really know who your friends are until you go through an obstacle like this. Apparently, I have a lot more friends than I really thought I did. It just blesses my heart to know that.”

It was a sweet welcome home, topped with the bitter reality that it could be over a year before he fully recovers from the effects of the virus.

“If it wasn’t for prayer, if it wasn’t for The Lord really helping me overcome this virus, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Smith has regained mobility in his arms and legs with the help of physical therapy, but he still needs a walker and a wheelchair to get around.

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