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Hawkinsville COVID-19 survivor thanks healthcare workers who cared for him

Shelly Berryhill spent nearly a month on a ventilator. Two months after being discharged from the ICU, he recovered.

HAWKINSVILLE, Ga. — A Hawkinsville city commissioner has recovered from COVID-19. 

Shelly Berryhill was one of the first COVID-19 cases in Pulaski County.

Hundreds of people followed his story on social media as his church posted updates every day.

Now, he's thanking each and every healthcare worker that helped him along his journey. 

In May, 13WMAZ reported that his family invited those healthcare workers to visit their church once Shelly recovered. On Sunday, he was able to thank those healthcare workers in front of his family, friends and church.

RELATED: 'It's a miracle': Hawkinsville commissioner recovering from COVID-19

Healthcare workers from Taylor Regional Hospital and Coliseum Medical Centers lined the front pews of Broad Street Baptist Church as Berryhill thanked his heroes for their daily sacrifice.

"Look right here in front. On their day off. They gotta be tired, exhausted. All of these people from Coliseum and Taylor have come down here to support a former patient who they haven't seen in two months," Berryhill said. 

Berryhill says Sunday was proof that healthcare workers are heroes as they took time out of their Sunday to support him. 

The last time many of them saw Berryhill, it wasn't like this. He spent nearly a month on a ventilator at Coliseum, and some doctors said he wouldn't make it. 

"To me, I was put to sleep, and then awoken to what I thought was the next day," Berryhill said.

In reality, almost 30 days had past, and in that time, his family, friends and congregation prayed, naming each nurse and doctor by name.

"To see families like this who didn't lose faith even when they were told he may not live through the night," said Christi Dykes, a clinical educator at Coliseum. "That does more for us than they did for them."

In May Berryhill's daughter, Kristen, wrote a letter to workers at Coliseum.

RELATED: 'Please pray': Pulaski County man hospitalized for issues related to COVID-19

"We thank God for you and all of the long hours and sacrifices you are making on the front lines," Kristen wrote in the letter. 

"It was the hardest thing I ever read," Berryhill said. "It was only then that I began to realize what all they had gone through."

Berryhill thanked his family for never giving up hope. That hope is what Shelly and his family gave to staff at Coliseum. 

"He was the inspiration to our staff," said Jody Dykes,  ICU director at Coliseum Medical. "Being one of the first people we had to actually survive COVID. He gave us a feeling that, you know, we weren't doing this for nothing. That there was some good coming out. We had lost several people to it. To have that win, it kept motivating us to keep coming in everyday and doing the same thing."

Berryhill has made a full recovery.

"I've been cleared by my lung doctor. No apparent damage. I've been cleared by my kidney doctor. No apparent lasting damage. No heart damage," Berryhill said. 

After nearly two months out of the hospital, Berryhill says he's no longer on medication.

The only thing he's recovering from is some nerve damage in his foot -- something he calls "a thorn in his side," saying it's God reminding him of what he's made it through.

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