News stories about COVID-19 often include the number of cases and deaths nationwide and locally. But such figures can distance us, obscuring the reality that every case is a person with an extended family and a network of friends — a human life forever altered and too often ended prematurely.
A little over a month ago, Wellington High School graduate Phillip Renaud was a hardworking family man, a loving husband to his wife Marissa and a devoted father to their two-year-old daughter Mila.
Then COVID-19 struck. The day he was admitted to the hospital, the family also learned that his job had disappeared, and he lost his insurance.
It is going on five weeks that Renaud has been hospitalized. He was in a medically induced coma at Wellington Regional Medical Center and spent his 32nd birthday in the intensive care unit, comatose, on a ventilator, a feeding tube and other lifesaving equipment.
On the 28th day, Renaud was brought out of the coma and could only move his fingers and toes. He is in isolation, and not even his wife can visit him. Nurses hold a phone up to him so he can see his wife and daughter, even though he cannot yet talk to them.
“We never thought that one of our best friends would be fighting for his life due to COVID-19,” family friend Victor Velazco said. “Although we were well versed in the effects and the measures that we have all had to adapt to, you just don’t think that you could actually be living it first-hand. Phil has a long recovery ahead of him.”
The days have been touch-and-go, with many unknowns and plenty of tears, as Renaud receives expensive treatment from doctors, specialists and nursing staff, literally 24 hours a day.
“Phil and Marissa were high school sweethearts in Wellington. He is the love of her life, and that she isn’t able to be by his side is painful to watch. Her love for her husband during this time is the epitome of ‘in sickness and in health’ as her days are filled with the constant communication with the medical team,” Velazco explained.
Marissa is her husband’s advocate and his voice right now. She said that she continues to fix her eyes on God as her source of strength, knowing for certain that there is purpose in this trial.
The family and surrounding friends’ hearts are heavy as the reality sinks in. The “what ifs” and “what does this all mean” questions burn in the consciousness.
Aside from raising money to support his friend, Velazco said that he is trying to spread awareness of the horrible effects of COVID-19, and the upheaval and spiral effect it has caused. “Future care, rehabilitation and having to relearn simple tasks are overwhelming to think about,” Velazco said. “Marissa is a very humble woman. She would never ask for help, not out of pride, but because she just pours out to others. This load is a very heavy [burden] she is carrying in more ways than one.”
A GoFundMe account was created for the family so that some of the weight can be lifted and Renaud’s wife and family can focus on Phil and his young daughter. The page has already raised thousands of dollars toward the staggering bills that the Renaud family is facing, but much more is needed. Donations can be made at http://gf.me/u/x9jdwr.
“More than anything, continued prayers and support are encouraged and welcomed for this precious family,” Velazco said.