SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – After three months in the hospital, a handful of surgeries and a 110-pound weight loss, Willie Ballew is happy to be alive. He got COVID in early spring and said since then, there are two major things he has learned: COVID is real and always appreciate life.
Driving past Ballew’s home, you’ll see more than a dozen balloons fluttering in the wind. But each one represents something much greater than your typical celebration.
“From nurses and doctors, they only gave me a zero to five percent chance that I would make it,” said Ballew, or as his family and nurses call him “the walking miracle man.”
To say he has been through a lot over the last couple of months is an understatement. It all started in April with a simple cough, he said. He brushed it off as allergies at first.
“Before this, I thought COVID was propaganda,” said Ballew. “I’m not going to lie.”
But just a couple of days later, he tested positive for COVID, started experiencing respiratory failure and was then put in a medically induced coma.
“I was in a coma for 29 days and then I came out, and I was intubated on the ventilator for another 30 days. While I was intubated, I ended up experiencing a perforated bowel,” Ballew explained.
He spent 98 days in the hospital altogether. He’s only 34 years old. This all meant months without being in the same room as his twin boys.
“I could see my children via FaceTime but that’s not like seeing them in person,” Ballew said.
But when it was safe, the hospital staff concocted a surprise reunion, giving him the chance to hold his sons for the first time in months.
His wife has been with him every step of the journey.
Ballew is home now but still recovering.
“It wasn’t the COVID, it was everything after COVID. It’s what COVID can do to your body,” Ballew said.
He’s working with an occupational therapist to build back muscle.
“When I was in there, I did lose the strength in my right arm. I still have medical personnel coming around the clock, but it’s still better than being inside the hospital,” Ballew said.
His family is closer than ever, especially in their faith and gratitude for everyone who stood in Ballew’s corner. Ballew and his wife said there has been an entire community rallying behind him through this all, including the nurses and doctors at the hospital.
“I am thankful, my children are thankful,” Willie’s wife, Debrece Ballew said.
They also have a message for others.
“COVID is real. If you don’t think so, please look at Willie,” Debrece Ballew said.
“My message for everyone is it’s very serious and appreciate life,” Willie Ballew said.
He got his first dose of the COVID vaccine Tuesday.
As you can imagine, this family is eager to celebrate but they’re holding off until he’s fully recovered.