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COVID-19 survivor Jimmie Hayden, wife Ashley, talk about ‘surreal’ experience with COVID-19, recovery and importance of plasma donation

Hayden, the first San Antonio patient to receive convalescent plasma, answers your questions about the new coronavirus

SAN ANTONIO – Many people may feel like life has been a bit surreal during the global COVID-19 pandemic, but few have experienced it quite like Jimmie Hayden.

Hayden spent most of the month of April at Methodist Stone Oak Hospital. The fact that he spent two weeks on a ventilator, and nearly lost his battle with COVID-19 is understandably hard to process considering he was an active, healthy 47-year-old man until the end of March.

“I was on the ventilator for so long, that time span I really don’t have any recollection of that,” Hayden said. “So, you know, after I came off the ventilator and was able to start seeing some pictures of myself, it hit home.”

Hayden was the city’s first recipient of convalescent plasma, which he believes saved his life.

Related: Doctor explains experimental plasma treatment for COVID-19 patients

He and his wife, Ashley, were guests on the “COVID Questions” segments during KSAT’s 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. newscasts on Monday where they shared their experience and answered viewers’ questions.

KSAT Viewer Question: “When did you know something was wrong?”

Hayden said he had all of the classic symptoms of COVID-19. He developed a high fever that lasted more than a week. He also had a cough and lost his sense of taste and smell. But about 7 or 8 days into it, breathing became an issue.

“He was having trouble communicating in full sentences,” Ashley Hayden said. “He couldn’t complete one sentence without stopping to take a breath. And you could tell his breathing was very labored.”

“By April 2nd, you know I just had that feeling. It’s time to go (to the emergency room),” Jimmie Hayden said.

KSAT Viewer Question: “Did Ashley or other family members get infected?”

“Yes, we were infected,” Ashley Hayden said.

Although nobody in the family had it as bad as Jimmie, Ashley Hayden said she and her children experienced bad headaches, fatigue and lost their sense of taste of smell. She had a cough and one of her children ran a fever, but just for 24 hours.

They weren’t even positive that what they had was COVID-19 until last week when Ashley and her son Wyatt were tested for antibodies.

Related: Local COVID-19 patient treated with plasma donated from recovered virus patient back home, family says

KSAT Viewer Question: “How are you feeling now, Jimmie?”

“I feel great. I’m very blessed,” Jimmie Hayden said.

He lost lung capacity and muscle mass while he was on the ventilator, so he’s been working to regain that.

“I’m up and walking and, you know, I get stronger every day,” Jimmie Hayden said.

KSAT Viewer Question: “What has your rehabilitation been like?”

Jimmie Hayden said his rehabilitation is focused on increasing muscle mass and lung capacity. He has a physical therapist who comes to his home a couple of times a week to check on him and to give him new exercises to do. Hayden uses stretchy bands to work out his muscles and has been walking for cardiovascular exercise. He also does breathing exercises. He says he already feels a “tremendous difference” in what he can do just in the last two weeks.

KSAT Viewer Question: “Are you concerned about potential long-term health damage?”

Jimmie Hayden said he’s been told he could have some permanent scarring to his lungs. He’s also had some blood clots, for which he takes blood thinners.

“You know, the fear is there, but I focus more on getting myself healthy again and I don’t dwell on the fears anymore because I don’t want to live that way,” he said. “I want to look at this as a second chance at life. I plan on doing a lot of things differently health-wise and taking care of myself. I just put it in God’s hands.”

KSAT Viewer Question: “What was it like to meet the man who donated the plasma?”

Indescribable.

That’s how Jimmie Hayden describes meeting David Hermann, a San Antonio man who donated his plasma after recovering from COVID-19.

“What do you say to someone who literally saved your life?” Jimmie Hayden said.

The Haydens consider Hermann to be a part of their family now, even though they’ve only chatted over the computer.

Related: Former COVID-19 patient donates plasma to help other patients fighting virus

They hope to meet him face-to-face one day, and in the meantime, they’re following his example by donating plasma to help others who are still battling COVID-19. Their son, Wyatt donated last week and plans to donate again with Ashley this week. Jimmie Hayden said he will donate as soon as doctors say he can.

“I’m such a believer in it,” Jimmie Hayden said.

It’s why they continue to share their story with as many people as they can.

“Anyone that can donate, please do so, because you literally can save someone’s life. I’m living proof of that,” Jimmie Hayden said. Click here to find out how to donate.

Related: San Antonio doctor donates plasma to help others recover from COVID-19

Ashley Hayden has another message for people.

“We were the kind of family that was kind of not believing this would ever touch our lives, or if it did, it wouldn’t be very bad,” Ashley Hayden said. “But you just never know. Take the precautions and be safe. Wear the masks, wash your hands, use the sanitizer, and just be safe.”

“I feel great and I feel, you know, again, just extremely blessed to know what I went through into where I’m at today,” Jimmie Hayden said. “Just don’t ever take that next day, the next breath for granted because life can change... at the drop of a hat.”

KSAT12 is working hard to get answers to the most important questions you have about the new coronavirus and COVID-19.

Every weekday night during the 6 p.m. broadcast news and during the streaming KSAT News at Nine, we will have experts on to answer your questions and give the latest information about COVID-19.

Find more answers and ask your own questions on our SAQ page.


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