Leeann Jessee catches herself occasionally looking across her office at the Adair County Public Library to check on Anita Riddle, the library’s cataloger and circulations specialist. The director of the library is not checking up on whether Riddle is doing her work, she knows that’s not a problem. She just wants to make sure Riddle is okay.
Riddle, 60, had a serious battle with COVID-19 last winter and, by all practical purposes, shouldn’t be around, much less back working at her job. She’s spent several weeks in the hospital, most of which were in intensive care, and was almost three weeks in a coma.
“All of us here felt hopeless when Anita went to the hospital. Her family couldn’t be with her so we couldn’t get any information as to how she was,” said Jessee. “We couldn’t find out much about how she was doing, and we couldn’t go to her.”
Riddle said she’s doing great.
“I work when I want to work and when I feel like working. When I get tired I go home,” she said. “Working here is my life and where I want to be. I have found what works for me. Even when you don’t feel like it, you have to keep moving.”
There was a time not too long ago that Riddle didn’t do much moving. Though she was super careful about wearing her mask and staying socially distanced prior to getting sick, Riddle was diagnosed with the coronavirus in November of 2020.
She started running a fever and tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 6. She was put on oxygen on Nov. 7 and was rushed to the emergency room at T.J. Samson in Glasgow on the 10th. She was sent home with a diagnosis of pneumonia. Riddle’s oxygen intake continued to decline and she was taken to the ICU at Taylor County Hospital on Nov. 12.
Riddle went on a BiPaP machine and was airlifted to the University of Louisville on Nov. 19. She was then put on the ventilator for 18 days, put in a coma and kept heavily sedated.
“I opened my eyes on Nov. 23 and I was holding my own,” Riddle said. “I spent 51 days in Louisville and eventually got to come home Jan. 1. It’s been a six-month recovery.”
Riddle couldn’t speak or walk when she came home. She said the virus caused damage to her heart, throat and lung. Her fight included several days at Frazier Rehab at the University of Louisville Hospital.
“My doctors used to come into my room and call me their ‘miracle girl.’ They said from all the signs of what it looked like, I shouldn’t even be there,” Riddle said. “It is only by God’s grace that I am here. Medically and scientifically, there is no reason for me to be here.”
Riddle said she thought she was going to die only once through the whole process, when her oxygen levels dropped drastically low. She said she just started to think about her family.
“I am a fighter, and I have 10 grandchildren,” Riddle said about the reasons she never gave up. “I want to go to their ballgames, I want to swim with them and I want to take them places. I also have a wonderful husband, Greg, and we want to do a lot of things. I am a lot stronger than I thought I was.”
Riddle is in the process of completing her vaccination protocol, but readily admits the decision to get vaccinated is completely a personal decision. She, however, can’t wait to get her second shot so she can take another step toward a “normal” life.
“When I am back to normal,” Riddle said, “Greg and I are going to the beach.”
By Scott Wilson