Team members and prayer warriors gave Jennifer Sherman hope

‘I felt God in my room’

Jennifer Sherman didn’t expect to be a caregiver. Growing up a preacher’s kid in Calabash, North Carolina, she and her sister Donna were young and defiant. But her father did his best to raise them as a single parent, and the community was there for her family.

When it was time for Sherman to go to college, she went off to Las Vegas. She considered herself a career student until one day, her father was diagnosed with leukemia from metastasized prostate cancer. Treatment took a toll on him, and he was diagnosed with dementia.

Sherman, then 28, returned to Brunswick County to take care of him. She found faith in the Lord and a new career path in social work. Today, Sherman is vice president of human services at Brunswick Senior Resources, a nonprofit organization that supports local seniors. Sherman’s department focuses on homebound services and other programs, such as Meals on Wheels and benefits education. She enjoys being able to serve the community that supported her as a kid.

When the coronavirus pandemic arose, however, Sherman faced a healthcare challenge of her own when her husband, Tommy, tested positive for COVID-19 in late September. Sherman tested negative at first, so she took care of him for six days. Then, suddenly, she couldn’t breathe and couldn’t walk. She called an ambulance. Tommy remained at home while she was admitted to Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center.

When Sherman arrived at Brunswick Medical Center, she was fatigued and feverish. All she wanted to do was take a deep breath. Novant Health team members performed an X-ray and diagnosed her with double pneumonia. Soon, respiratory therapists treated her with heated high-flow therapy, and Sherman responded well. After a couple days in the progressive care unit, Sherman’s fever broke and she was slowly weaned from oxygen.

Being separated from Tommy was especially hard. They have been together for 15 years.  Sherman describes herself as a talker, and she couldn’t breathe during her illness, let alone talk. It took all the energy she had to communicate with medical staff.

“Every other day, I would call Tommy and say, ‘Love you,’” Sherman remembers tearfully. “That was it.”

But while the two of them were sick, the community found a way to lift her up. Today, Sherman’s sister Donna is mayor of Calabash, and she organized a prayer vigil outside her window and livestreamed it on Facebook. Sherman was able to watch. The experience moved her deeply.

“She’s a prayer warrior,” Sherman said with a laugh. “It has been documented.”

The group made posters with prayers, Bible verses and encouragement. Kerri Hardee was one of the nurses caring for Jennifer at the time. She noticed the posters and hung them all over the room.

“The messages changed the atmosphere of gloom to a room of love, inspiration and reminders to be courageous and strong,” Hardee recalled. “Those messages served us all.”

With team members and prayer warriors at her back, Sherman felt like she was able to rest.

“I felt like I was given the permission to just be, to just be silent and worship,” Sherman said. “I’ve given my whole entire life to the community, to my job and to people who were in need. For me to receive and be loved on was a powerful moment.”

In that moment, Sherman experienced faith once again.

“I felt the Holy Spirit,” she said. “I felt God in my room. People would always come in and say, ‘You’re so loved’ because they would see the flowers and the posters. But I think they also felt the presence of the Lord in there because not once did I feel lonely or scared. I felt like I was carried in the arms of Jesus.”

Sherman also cherishes the Novant Health team members. After a week, she was able to eat, and Hardee was there with extra motivation.

“I started out with a half a cup of Cheerios, and she would try everything she could to make me eat,” Sherman said. “She even brought me her own protein jelly.” She remembers receiving the best baths, courtesy of an aide named Madison.

“Every day she was on shift, she would make sure I had a bath because she knew how important that was for me and then helped me wash my hair,” Sherman said.

After two weeks, Sherman was well enough to continue her recovery at home. Team members cheered her on as she was discharged, and her prayer warriors greeted her outside. Tommy came and picked her up — a moment that brought everyone to tears.

“Forget all the stuff that I thought was important: what my shoes look like, if I was the best dressed or the smartest person,” she said. “Having my friends happy, healthy and well is what’s most important to me.”

Sherman hopes others will hear her story and take the pandemic seriously. She has friends who were skeptical before who are now wearing masks. She encourages others to cherish their time with loved ones.

“I wish we could all, as a community, come back to a place of simplicity where we realize the gift of life in each other,” Sherman said. “That is what we need to celebrate at Christmas and near the holidays.”

Now, you can help support the mission against COVID-19 and honor the hard work of Novant Health team members.

With a gift to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund, you can equip team members with vital financial resources to care for their families safe while they care for us. Do your part and give today.

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