Arkansas woman beats COVID-19 after doctors told family she had hours to live

Local News

BENTON Ark. — After being taken to the hospital with COVID-19 in November, one Arkansas woman returned home last week after 84 days.

After experiencing cold-like symptoms at the beginning of November, Rhonda Withem was diagnosed with COVID-19. Her family says they noticed her condition was worsening and called 911.

“It was scary for sure,” Withem’s daughter, Nicole Brewer, said.

Withem’s health continued to decline at Saline Memorial Hospital, and she was placed on a ventilator.

However, after two weeks of no progress, Brewer says she had a tough decision to make; suspend treatment or allow her mom to endure a lifetime of pain. 

“Our other option was she could have a trach and go to a long-term care 24/7– we were like our mom wouldn’t want that,” Brewer recalled. “She would never be able to breathe again on her own.”

It was November 29 when Brewer said the family made the decision to take Withem off the ventilator, saying their goodbyes through her hospital door. Doctors gave her mother just a few hours to live.

“He said it would just be a few hours. She would pass away,” she said.

Then, in a remarkable turn of events, Brewer said she witnessed a miracle. Her mother’s eyes opened and she became responsive for the first time in weeks. The family, as well as doctors, were in awe of the change for the better.

“They were just in shock and couldn’t believe it,” Brewer said her mother’s doctors.

Over the next 10 weeks, Withem continued to defy the odds, beginning rehabilitation at the hospital where she relearned to eat, drink, and walk.

She comes off the ventilator and it’s just a miracle,” Brewer said of her mother.

It’s almost like starting over from a baby because you have to learn to do everything over again,” Withem added.

After that fear, uncertainty and hard work, and 84 days after she went to the hospital with COVID-19, Withem was welcomed home by her family in Benton.

“God had another plan for me,” she said. “He wasn’t ready to take me.”

Withem said the road to recovery is long, but the journey home is worth every step.

“It’s just still hard to believe, because a lot of people haven’t made it from this virus,” she explained.

Withem lost the majority of her strength in her arms and legs. She is currently in a wheelchair and is working to make progress with a walker. She will continue rehab at her home and hopes to return to work by the end of 2021.

While she still has a lot of time put in to get back to where she was, what was once a few hours left for Withem is now a lifetime left to live.

“It is a miracle, answer to prayer, and just the Lord,” Brewer said. “That’s all it is.”

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