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Former mayor shares battle with COVID complications

The voice of former Troy mayor Jimmy Lunsford was weak but upbeat.

He spoke slowly and deliberately above the hum of the tires on I-10 W from Tallahassee to Troy Wednesday afternoon.

Lunsford realized that this was a road-trip that he might not have made. He was blessed. He knew that and so did his wife, Faye, who was driving him home on a rather warm, late December day.

Lunsford was willing to talk on that long ride home about his COVID-19 experience that could have ended, period.

When Lunsford tested positive with COVID-19 on November 30, he accepted the information with the assurance that he would be okay. That assurance was short lived.

On December 9, Lunsford began to struggle with shortness of breath. At Troy Regional Medical Center, he was diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs. He was placed in ICU and began to improve dramatically and a few days later he was released.

“When I got home, I did really well,” Lunsford said. “I thought I was getting over COVID-19.”

Lunsford’s breathing continued to improve and his strength was returning. COVID-19 was behind him.

“But on Christmas night, my breathing began to get more difficult,” he said. “Even though I used a spray throughout the night my breathing didn’t improve. Somewhere around 9:30, I believe, is when my lung collapsed. But I stayed in bed until morning. That was not smart.”

Around 6:30 a.m. Faye Lunsford rushed her husband to TRMC where he was met in ER first by Dr. Richard Schloemer and then by Dr. Aldolfo Robledo.

Schloemer realized the seriousness of Lunsford’s condition and began the tests related to Lunsford’s condition. Robledo began the CT scans and the severity of Lunsford’s condition became clear.

Tom Farror, CRNA, and Dr. Rick Gill, surgeon, were called to the emergency department.

“My condition was such that I could not be air lifted to the hospital in Tallahassee where there is a surgeon who specializes in the kind of surgery I was facing,” Lunsford said. “The surgery had to be done then and there. So, an operating room was set up in the emergency room at TRMC.”

Lunsford was on blood thinner so it was imperative that he not move, not even flinch, during the surgery.

“One involuntary move could have caused the scaffold to hit an artery and I could have bled to death,” he said.

Lunsford said with Gill’s medical knowledge and skilled hands and with the consultation of the surgeon in Tallahassee, the surgery was successfully completed.  Lunsford was later airlifted to Capital Regional Hospital in Tallahassee for further treatment.

“And, now I’m on the way home,” Lunsford said on Wednesday afternoon. “The chest tube is out and my breathing is good. It will take a little more time for me to get over all this.

“But, I know, without a doubt, that the medical team at Troy Regional Medical Center saved my life. The lung surgery was an unbelievably dangerous procedure and Rick Gill performed it exactly as it had to be done – and on a friend. I will always be grateful to this team of doctors that saved my life.”

Lunsford was speaking as one of the John Doe’s whose lives are placed in the skilled hands of doctors and surgeons every day.

“And forever grateful I will be,” he said.