AFSCME 1635 Member recovering after Covid-19 fight

By Amorette Miller

Rochester, NY – On March 26, 2020, Jeff Reese an AFSCME 1635 member and City of Rochester Recreation Specialist wasn’t feeling like his usual self. He was home, running a high fever and something was not right. The global spread of the novel Covid-19 virus caused businesses and schools to shutter around the world. City of Rochester Recreation Centers (R-Centers) kept doors open to compensate for school closures during the pause providing meals to all students, and Jeff a 23-year city employee was one of the R-Center workers handing out breakfast and lunch.

While there is usually a constant flow of students at the R-Centers, things are different now because of the coronavirus. The regularly anticipated programs of the center are temporarily canceled until the local Phase 4 planned reopening.

Two days after showing symptoms, Jeff’s wife Amy, encouraged him to go to the hospital due to his listlessness and persistent high fever. She called 911, and an ambulance took him to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he was admitted. “I felt fine and wanted to go home, but they kept me for three days, and then I was released,” Jeff said.

While isolating at home, his symptoms persisted and became unbearable on April 4, when Amy called 911 again. “I didn’t want to go back to the hospital, but I went, and I am glad I did,” Jeff said. He was immediately put on a ventilator as blood and fluid began to fill his lungs. “I didn’t even realize what happened to me or how bad it was,” he said.

Jeff Reese spent the next four weeks alone. In late March, restrictions on hospital visitations were already in place, prohibiting outside visitors from entering. Time in the ICU flew by for Jeff as he was in a medically induced coma, but for Amy and their four children, every minute felt like an eternity.

“It was extremely difficult for me and the kids – we were on survival mode. We tried to focus on any little positive information that we could and tried to imagine him well again. The nurses allowed us to FaceTime, and we were able to tell him that we loved him,” Amy said.

Jeff remained on the ventilator for the next twenty-five days, and during that time, his lung collapsed, and his heart stopped. Jeff pulled through to the surprise of the ICU unit and was finally able to breathe without the ventilator. Because of the length of time spent on the “vent” Jeff’s rebound was a shock to the healthcare staff who cared for him.

“I was the sickest person they have ever seen come back. Though I pulled through, I was completely out of it; my body was in really bad shape. During my recovery, my brother David called to talk and tell me some jokes to keep my spirits up. The amount of support and the people that stood up for my family is very humbling. Thanks to the ICU and physical therapy team over at Strong Hospital and especially my loving family,” Jeff said.

Bill Slocum, AFSCME 1635 president, is overjoyed with the news of Jeff’s recovery and said, “It was so good to hear your voice and talk with you the other day. I was extremely happy to hear you made it through that horrific COVID-19 virus. I look forward to the day when we can get together to welcome you back. I wish you well, and my prayers are with you brother for a full and speedy recovery. You truly are a miracle man.”

After many days of physical therapy, Jeff is now recuperating at home with his family as he continues to heal. Under the  Cares Act, Jeff has more time under “Covid pay,” and will return when he is strong enough to do so.