A nightmare unfolds

Rhonda Hudson pictured sitting in swing in January 2020 before COVID-19 left its mark on the extended family. Pictured from left to right: Mary, Tim, Elizabeth, Tyler, Olivia and Rhonda seated. (Photo courtesy of Hudson family)
Caption
Rhonda Hudson pictured sitting in swing in January 2020 before COVID-19 left its mark on the extended family. Pictured from left to right: Mary, Tim, Elizabeth, Tyler, Olivia and Rhonda seated. (Photo courtesy of Hudson family)

Georgia family endures agony of three sisters, a brother taken by COVID-19

As the summer COVID-19 surge sickened people across Georgia, Rhonda Hudson noticed she wasn’t feeling well. It felt like a bad cold. But her test came back positive.

Hudson, 55, could never have fathomed what COVID-19 was about to do to her — and her entire family. It would be weeks before she would find out.

As her symptoms worsened, a daughter took her to the ER. Within days she was put on a ventilator, and she would remain on it for about two months.

“I was sedated, and I don’t remember a whole lot,” said Hudson, who lives in Hortense, a small community in southeast Georgia. She said she mostly remembers having horrible dreams, over and over.

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But what was playing out while Hudson was sedated was a nightmare itself. Many in her extended family had been infected, too. In the same hospital where Hudson was struggling to live, her mother died at the end of July. A week later, her Aunt Sarah died, and later, her Aunt Velma. All from COVID-19. All in their 70s. She lost an uncle at the same time, too. Four siblings, all gone within a few weeks. Even one of her beloved dogs passed away.

“I woke up to all of that,” she said.

Caption
Rhonda Hudson came home from a long stay in the hospital and a rehab center on Oct. 31, 2020, and was surrounded by her family in Hortense. Pictured left to right: Logan, Tyler, Olivia, Mary, Elizabeth, Tim holding granddaughter Adeline. (Contributed)

Credit: HANDOUT

Rhonda Hudson came home from a long stay in the hospital and a rehab center on Oct. 31, 2020, and was surrounded by her family in Hortense. Pictured left to right: Logan, Tyler, Olivia, Mary, Elizabeth, Tim holding granddaughter Adeline. (Contributed)
Caption
Rhonda Hudson came home from a long stay in the hospital and a rehab center on Oct. 31, 2020, and was surrounded by her family in Hortense. Pictured left to right: Logan, Tyler, Olivia, Mary, Elizabeth, Tim holding granddaughter Adeline. (Contributed)

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

The infectious nature of COVID-19 gives it the potential to whip through families — especially close, extended ones. While Hudson was hospitalized, other family members prayed outside the hospital for her recovery while dealing with the grief of one loss after another. Hudson said during her dreams, she would call out to God for help and left her recovery in her Lord’s hands.

Hudson’s three daughters and her husband kept the faith, updating friends and extended family daily through a Facebook page.

“My family went through a lot,” she said. “They were called twice to come and tell me goodbye. They thought I was going to die. They were on a roller coaster, a mental roller coaster.”

Caption
Rhonda Hudson, right, and her mother Linda Lee Lewis got COVID-19 in 2020. They're seen here together on Christmas in 2019. While Hudson survived after a long hospital stay, her mother died. (Contributed)

Credit: HANDOUT

Rhonda Hudson, right, and her mother Linda Lee Lewis got COVID-19 in 2020. They're seen here together on Christmas in 2019. While Hudson survived after a long hospital stay, her mother died. (Contributed)
Caption
Rhonda Hudson, right, and her mother Linda Lee Lewis got COVID-19 in 2020. They're seen here together on Christmas in 2019. While Hudson survived after a long hospital stay, her mother died. (Contributed)

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Hudson had been moved from the hospital to rehab to begin her long recovery when she expressed confusion over why her mother hadn’t come to see her. That’s when her husband broke the news. Her mother was gone. He had to tell her about all the other losses, too. Some days, it’s still hard for her to believe.

Now, Hudson and her family are focused on her recovery. One daughter helps her during the day while her husband and another daughter keep their heating and air business going. They have health insurance, she said, but are learning that insurance didn’t come close to covering all the medical bills.

Hudson has a long way to go to recover, but she’s making faster progress than anticipated, in terms of gaining her strength and moving around. She and her husband love antiques and she’s able to patch old quilts, just like she used to. She wants to get back to cooking fried chicken every Sunday for the family. Sometimes she can’t help but question why this happened, but she tries to focus on her blessings.

“I’m thankful every day I’m alive,” she said, “and I’m thankful that God chose for me to survive this.”

ExploreReturn to the COVID timeline: A year of loss

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