Too weak to move in his hospital bed or even pick up his cell phone to call his family, Dennis Campbell came to a stark, dark realization.

"I was prepared to die," he said.

He had no doubt, in that moment, that he had indeed reached the end of life.

The 48-year-old from Richmond somberly embraced an outcome he believed to be an inevitability.

"I was just praying to God and saying that if it is my time, then it's my time. If not, then use me for something (good)," Dennis said. "I came to grips with it. If it was my time, then it was my time. There's nothing that I control. My only wish was that I wanted to be able to talk to my family."

Dennis didn't die in that hospital bed in Lexington.

Remarkably, just a few days later, he was home with his family.

"He called and said that he thought he was going to be able to come home," said Deborah Campbell, Dennis' wife. "And I was just like, 'What? Really?'"

The father of three came home on April 1 — just four days after he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

He remains quarantined at his home in Madison County along with the rest of the family. They will remain isolated for at least another week.

"He's done great," Deborah said. "He's on his way to a full recovery. He's not on oxygen."

That recovery is stunning.

Dennis, who coaches girls basketball and softball at Clark-Moores Middle School, was starting to get ill as early as March 19.

"Every day, he had more and more symptoms," Deborah said. "He had aches and chills. He was sweating. He had a low-grade fever, then he started vomiting and had stomach pain."

Things kept getting worse, despite an appointment with his primary doctor.

On March 26, Dennis was weak, sick and almost delirious when he arrived at St. Jospeh Hospital in Berea.

"He was trying to tell me stuff and he couldn't put together sentences," Deborah said. "He was out of breath."

"I couldn't even think straight," Dennis said.

A nurse examined Dennis in the parking lot and he was taken inside.

Deborah was not allowed to go into the hospital with her husband.

"She wheeled him away and I parked the car, then I cried," said Deborah, a teacher at Kirksville Elementary. "It was horrible. I couldn't help him. It was hard."

Dennis was tested for COVID-19.

The result sent a shockwave through the family.

"I hit the floor and started to pray and just asked for God to protect him," Deborah said.

After the diagnosis, the decision was made to move Dennis to a bigger hospital.

"We wanted him close to a pulmonologist," Deborah said. "The doctors and staff at Berea were great."

Dennis remained stable after arriving at St. Joseph's in Lexington.

His condition, though, wasn't improving.

"I was so weak I couldn't even hold on to my phone at certain points," Dennis said.

And not being able to talk to her husband took a huge emotional and mental toll on Deborah.

"There were times he wouldn't answer my texts and wouldn't answer my calls," she said. "Sometimes, I wouldn't hear from him for 12 hours."

In those hours, Dennis started to believe that he might never hear from his family ever again.

"It was bad. I was on oxygen and they were contemplating putting me on a ventilator," Dennis said.

"It was really scary from there on out," Deborah said.

At one point, Dennis was taking in seven liters of oxygen a minute through tubes in his nose.

The doctors then offered up an alternative treatment to the 48-year-old — hydroxychloroquine.

"I heard about it and I thought, 'What is it going to hurt? I'm probably not going to be here much longer,'" Dennis said.

The somewhat controversial medicine — which was been around for years and is usually used to treat malaria, but has not yet been approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19 — had a stunning impact on Dennis almost immediately.

"It seemed like as soon as I took that medicine, it really helped me," Dennis said. "It turned everything around. Thank God they had it."

The drug, a deep faith conviction and the support of family and friends are the things the Campbells credit with the remarkable recovery.

The family attends Red House Baptist Church in Richmond.

The outpouring of affection from the congregation, led by Pastor Deron Cobb, was overwhelming.

A prayer chain was formed and Deborah was sent bible passage from members that kept her spirits high at the lowest moments.

"They sent me the perfect things at the perfect times," Deborah said.

Members of the church, along with friends from school and the rest of the community, also dropped off food to the family while they were sequestered in their home.

Dennis drew inspiration from an unlikely source during his stay in the hospital.

Instead of watching television — which was filled with COVID-19 reporting — he chose to listen to soft, soothing music.

"I guess you could call it massage music or spa music," Dennis said with a laugh. "It helped calmed me. I would just listen to it and I would fall asleep."

Dennis is at home now, spending most of his time resting and regaining his strength.

His recovery will continue, but no one is sure how he contracted the virus.

Dennis had no serious pre-existing health conditions. He works in a warehouse, but none of his co-workers ever showed symptoms or tested positive for the virus.

"It's a mystery," Deborah said. "We don't know of anyone else who is positive that we have been in contact with. I traced back to two weeks before his first symptoms and gave all that information to the health department. They were trying to find a hotspot, but they haven't found anyone or anything. It's scary to know it's out there and you don't know who might have it."

Luckily, no other member of the Campbell family has shown any symptoms, either.

However, the entire family — including Brett, a sophomore at Madison Central and twins Brittany and Brooke, who are seventh-graders — will have to remain in their house for another week.

"Brett really wanted to be with his friends," Deborah said of her son. "He wanted to go outside and go see his girlfriend, but he can't."

Dennis also really wants to get back to one of the things he enjoys doing most in the world — coaching.

"I miss all the kids," Dennis said. "I've been sitting here looking at film and going over stuff and thinking about some new plays. I just can't wait to start coaching the kids again."

Brittany and Brooke both play basketball and Brett plays baseball at Madison Central.

If the COVID-19 virus hadn't closed schools in Madison County and across the country, Campbell family would have been in Florida this week for the Indians annual spring break trip to Florida.

Instead, they are all at home.

Disappointed, of course.

Still grateful and happy, though.

"Once my two weeks (of self quarantine) are up, I have to get tested again," Dennis said.

If that test comes back negative, Dennis wants to help others.

The coach/father/husband has agreed to donate his plasma, which has been shown to aid in the recovery of COVID-19 patients.

"I've told them I would do that — as long as they keep the plasma I donate people in Central Kentucky. I want to help people here. God got me through it and I can help others, I'm going to do it," Dennis said.

React to this story:


Recommended for you