ROANOKE, Va. – There were plenty of hugs and tears Tuesday as Justin Ditmore returned to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital to thank the doctors and nurses who saved his life.
“I know most of y’all don’t recognize me because I’m dressed and standing, but thank y’all. I’m gonna cry,” said Ditmore, choking up.
Exactly one year ago, on Dec. 20, 2021, Ditmore was released from the hospital after a four-month battle with COVID-19.
“I’m around, thank God, because of you guys,” said Ditmore.
After a summer vacation last year, the then-healthy 52-year-old man found himself fighting for his life. Ditmore, who was unvaccinated at the time, contracted COVID-19. He was admitted to the hospital and two days later was placed on a ventilator, unable to breathe on his own.
Ditmore was in a medically-induced coma for 2.5 months.
“There were six different times I either coded, had to have an emergency procedure, or they called and told my girlfriend to prepare my kids that I wasn’t going to live through the day,” said Ditmore.
Finally, Ditmore started to improve. After more than 130 days in the hospital, he went home for the holidays.
“I’m not kidding about this: I was on church prayer lists from New York to Florida,” said Ditmore. “And I really do think the reason God let me off the hook was he was tired of hearing from everybody. He needed to clear up the phone lines.”
In the year since Ditmore has ditched the wheelchair and cane. Now, he’s able to get around on his own. His girlfriend Beth Fischer— who was by his side the entire time — said it’s all thanks to the people in the room.
“He wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t taken care of him,” said Fischer. “Certainly did the doctors, but for me day to day, it was the nurses and the therapists that carried me through, as well.”
For staff like Kim Bolling and Kelly Carr, who saw Ditmore at his weakest, seeing him Tuesday was a miracle.
“He’s an inspiration. He’s why I do my job,” said Carr, a physical therapist assistant.
“It makes me proud to be a nurse and do what I do and be able to see him. And it makes me proud of him,” said Bolling, a nurse, “Because it’s not just us caring for him, it’s him working hard.”
Ditmore said he’s grateful for the gift of life this Christmas.
“I get to see the real Christmas tree this year in our house,” said Ditmore, in tears. “I get to do all that and that’s all because of you guys.”