‘I made my peace’: Savannah paramedic shares near-death battle with COVID-19

Coronavirus

WILMINGTON ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – A Savannah paramedic, who provided care for patients suffering from COVID-19, never expected to end up being hospitalized after contracting the virus.

Mark Bednarz has dedicated his entire life to helping others, serving in the Army, and as a police officer in Savannah before becoming a paramedic.

He was close to being intubated before his symptoms began to improve.

Now he wants to make sure others know that even someone who had access to all the preventative measures could still contract the virus.

‘It’s in my blood’

Bednarz is no stranger to public service.

“It’s in my blood,” he said. “My entire family has been in public service and I’m just giving back to my community.”

He joined ROTC in high school and college. He later enlisted in the Army and joined the reserves after training. He became a police officer and EMT in the late 1980s until he retired from the police department in 2009.

Bednarz went back to work as a firefighter and paramedic before going to Iraq in 2013 to work as a paramedic.

“In EMS, it’s not your emergency. It’s their emergency,” said Bednarz.

Once the pandemic began, however, he never expected to be the one in need of help during an emergency.

‘I made my peace’

In the middle of May, he came down with a slight cough but didn’t think anything of it until he began shivering and sweating during one shift.

When he checked his temperature that night, he had a fever of 101.9.

Bednarz received a positive COVID-19 test, began to isolate himself at home and monitor his symptoms.

Within a week, he developed shortness of breath. He ended up in the hospital after he collapsed one morning, unable to breathe.

After EMS picked him up, he was admitted to Memorial Health where doctors put him on oxygen, an IV and had him on plasma therapy.

When he wasn’t progressing, doctors told him he may have to be intubated.

“The prognosis for persons who were intubated was very poor,” said Bednarz. “Knowing that prognosis I was scared. I begged them, ‘please don’t intubate me.'”

With the possibility of intubation high, Bednarz says all he could do was notify his family and hope for the best.

“I was scared,” he said. “I haven’t told many people this, but I made my peace.”

Doctors prescribed him remdesivir and his condition quickly began to improve within two days.

‘This disease doesn’t care who you are’

Bednarz was eventually discharged from the hospital once his symptoms began to lessen and he was able to breathe on his own.

Even though he tested negative for coronavirus towards the end of June, he still has lung and kidney damage from the virus.

He says he hopes no one has to go through what he did and wants people to practice safety measures, like wearing a mask.

“The disease does not care if you’re a Democrat or Republican, white, Black, Hispanic,
Asian,” said Bednarz. “It’s going to affect all of us and we need to be kind to each other and take care of each other.”

He also says even though he has the antibodies and cannot contract the virus again soon, he continues to wear a mask.

“I wear it because it’s something we need to do,” he said. “It shows that we’re trying to help each other.”

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