Beating the Odds by Recovering from Covid-19

Rachel Murphy (c) with longtime friends Lois and Brown Pulliam at Bedford Embraces Diversity’s 2017 community breakfast to honor Martin Luther King Day

Rachel Murphy lost the early rounds to the coronavirus Covid-19. She arrived at Lahey Hospital on March 7, and after testing positive for the dangerous virus was clobbered with a haymaker — immediate intubation with a ventilator.

“During the first 24 hours, the doctors told my family they didn’t think I would make it,” she recounted. “My kids told them, ‘My mom does not give in. As long as you fight, she will fight with you.’”

Rachel withstood the early barrage and stabilized. Her children reported incremental improvements daily to her friends, and finally, the medical staff removed the ventilator on April 10. She moved out of the intensive care unit the next day, and last Wednesday she moved to the transitional care unit at Emerson Hospital in Concord for rehabilitation.

She can’t have visitors or phone calls from well-wishers, but her four children and six grandchildren reach out every day and have even waved at her window from the parking lot, Rachel said.

Rachel Murphy lived in Bedford for almost 50 years, and during most of that time was a leading advocate for fairness, diversity, and harmony. A founding member of Concerned Black Citizens of Bedford, she was an early supporter of Metco and a resource for Black History Month. At the first Martin Luther King Jr. community breakfast, she spoke and sang.

Rachel, 77, moved closer to her children in the fall of 2018, several months after the death of her husband Edward. She lives in Tewksbury with her daughter Denita, which is why she ended up at Lahey.

Rachel said physicians couldn’t surmise how she contracted Covid-19. But they were alarmed because, besides pneumonia, she has several other medical issues. “I do not remember anything after arriving in the emergency room” until she was disconnected from her ventilator three-and-a-half weeks later.

”Everyone who gets the virus seems to have different symptoms,” she said, noting that she not only lost her sense of taste but also her sense of smell has changed.

Rachel believes in the power of prayer. “All my relatives and friends were praying for me and pulling for me. It might sound crazy but I think it works.” Others sent encouraging messages – You’re tough. You can survive this.”

“Every doctor I have seen said, ‘You’re supposed to be dead,’” Rachel laughed. “I told them I was too ornery to die.”

Rachel said she works with occupational and physical therapists every day, and already can walk to the bathroom. She will be discharged once she can walk without assistance, and only after she tests negative for Covid-19 twice with 24 hours.

Once at home, she has been told not to go out for some time. Rest, hydration, and nutrition are the keys to recovery. “I’m doing exactly what they tell me.” She is going to have to adjust slowly to a normal diet, as her stomach shrank over the days she spent intubated and was fed intravenously.

Rachel has some advice for anyone unfortunate enough to become ill with the coronavirus: “Don’t give in. Don’t give up. And keep fighting.”


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