Lexington doctor lucky to be alive reflects on hard fought battle with COVID-19

WKYT News at 6:00 PM
Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 6:56 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) -Governor Andy Beshear has said we are in a battle with coronavirus as more cases surge across the state.

Winning against this enemy has been costly for a lot of people.

Sadly, some have lost their fight while others have survived, but it wasn’t easy.

For the first time we are hearing from a longtime Lexington doctor who spent a month in the hospital and nearly lost his own battle to COVID-19.

Dr. Jeff Foxx sits down with WKYT to talk about what he credits with saving his life.

A simple walk in the park is a chance for some exercise.

In fact, it’s something Lexington doctor, Jeff Foxx might routinely prescribe for his patients.

Now it’s good medicine for himself, just four months ago life for the 64-year-old was uncertain.

“Looking back on it, whoa I was lucky. I was lucky, I shouldn’t be alive,” said Dr. Jeff Foxx.

The pace the longtime doctor keeps now, is a far cry from April 21 when Dr. Foxx was being wheeled out of Baptist Health Lexington, still weak from a hard fought battle with COVID-19.

“I spent a month in the ICU, three weeks on a ventilator-paralyzed and comatose and I don’t remember much of that,” said Dr. Foxx.

He thought it was the flu, with a fever, he was fatigued, but then he lost his sense of taste and smell.

That symptom has become a hallmark symptom of this virus.

His low oxygen level though is what landed him in the emergency room.

“One of the other things strange about this illness is a lot of people can’t tell really how low their oxygen levels is,” said Dr. Mark Dougherty, Baptist Health Lexington.

In those early days, treating COVID patients was still a mystery to doctors like longtime epidemiologist Dr. Mark Dougherty at Baptist Health Lexington.

“We were struggling at first trying to figure out therapeutics. We knew that Gilead had this anti-viral medication Remdesivir, we thought it might be effective,” said Dr. Dougherty.

That drug wasn’t available at the time, but others were, and Dr. Dougherty tried them, he has learned a lot since early March.

“We can do something, we aren’t just helpless and hopeless. There are interventions we can make,” said Dr. Dougherty.

In Dr. Foxx’s case he was one of the first to receive convalescent plasma therapy, it’s a treatment that has been around since the Spanish flu.

No one knew if it would work for COVID, but a stranger stepped up to try.

“We take people who have already been infected, we basically pull off their antibodies and give what we consider instant immunity to the recipient,” said Dr. Dougherty.

That donation came from Ray Young, ironically from Harrison Co. the first community to report a coronavirus case.

Doctors saw a gradual improvement in Dr. Foxx’s condition.

“That gift probably, one of the things that saved my life,” said Dr. Foxx

The Kentucky Blood Center says to date they have received 120 donations of plasma.

Each donation results in about four doses and they have been able to send out 372 doses to partner hospitals.

At Baptist Health Lexington roughly 34 patients with COVID-19 have been given a plasma donation.

It isn’t a cure, but it is part of the recipe that can now be used in some of the sickest COVID patients and it’s why as more cases surface the need continues for donors.

“We’ve been trying to get the word out there that we really need people who have been infected before to come in and donate and re-donate,” said Dr. Dougherty.

No one knew if the plasma coupled with other drugs would work, but in April Dr. Foxx turned the corner and we were there as his friends, family and staff cheered for his release from the hospital.

His first stop, driving by the practice that means so much to him.

Months later there are still lingering health complications.

“Every day I’m getting better, my stamina is not where it needs to be. I still have some scarring in the lungs, my pulmonary function is not where I want them to be,” said Dr. Foxx.

And then there are the mental worries.

He doesn’t know when he will return to seeing patients.

“I still worry about getting sick again,” said Dr. Foxx.

Modern medicine may have saved this doctor, but Jeff Foxx also credits another type of medicine, one he got outside of the hospital.

“The prayers from my family, my patients. It is unbelievable and I really believe all of that together is why I’m here and I’m thankful for that, said Dr. Foxx.

When we asked Dr. Foxx the takeaway for others, he simply said one of the greatest commandments is love your neighbor as yourself.

Dr. Foxx’s message for Kentuckians “love your neighbor, wear your mask.”

Baptist Health Lexington says since early March until just last week they had treated 146 patients for COVID-19, not all were hospitalized.

If you are a recovered COVID-19 patient in Kentucky both Baptist Health Lexington and The Kentucky Blood Center would like to hear from you.

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