ELWOOD, Ind. — It’s a rare opportunity, to share a positive story related to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps even rarer to share the story of someone who came down with a severe case of the virus who made it out alive.
But that’s exactly what Pipe Creek Volunteer Fire Fighter Justin Guillemet did after he battled the Delta Variant for nearly ten weeks.
CBS4 first met Holli when her husband’s battle first began in July.
It started off a weekend like any other, except for the fact that Guillemette didn’t feet too well. A cough rattled in his chest and he seemed more tired than usual… the 6’5” all-American, Air Force Veteran went to the doctor first thing Monday to see what was the matter.
Now struggling for oxygen between breaths, doctors sent him to be tested, and quickly Guillemette found himself swept into a frenzy after learning he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Quickly Guillemette’s health deteriorated. He was transported to Indianapolis at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital where he was intubated and rendered unconscious for 72 days.
“I was scared because I couldn’t breathe and no matter how much oxygen they put on me I couldn’t,” Guillemette said. “About the last thing I remember was the doctor telling me that they were gonna have to inn-abate and I was gonna be put under and the next thing I know… August 19th I’m somewhat conscious coming off of sedation meds.”
What happened in those weeks between his consciousness is nothing short of his wife’s personal hell.
“I was going through it blindly… I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to think I didn’t know what to ask, what to do? All anybody could tell us was, this is day by day. They couldn’t give us a time frame, nothing. It’s just day by day. I kinda got tired of hearing that,” Guillemette’s wife Holli Guillemette said. “My husband has saved so many lives over the years that we just want God to save him too… we’ve had so many prayers that I’m pretty sure God probably said. Enough already!”
With nothing left but the power of prayer and an undying bond of love which was put to the test…
“It reminds you of what’s important,” Holli said. “I was just so upset that all of this could have been avoided had my husband received the vaccine. It’s just frustrating cause I hear the same things from people over and over… I’m not getting it. I don’t believe in it… blah blah blah, my husband was one of those people… I’m not gonna lie and now his karma was basically getting it,” Holli said. “He didn’t believe in the shot and now… he’s where he’s at sadly. It could’ve made a difference. It could’ve kept him from going to that extreme. What I ask now is are you willing to potentially die, just to not get a vaccination?”
Holli believed her husband may never come home after he was infected with what doctors believe was the Delta Variant. She took his wedding ring, the symbol of their love, from his finger before he was taken from her.
“I had said I would wear it until he came home… and I said I would give it back. And I knew he would come home… I just didn’t know when,” Holli said. “Even though that’s what I prayed for, I just don’t know that it would be possible.”
After days turned into weeks and weeks rolled into months… Holli, who frequently visited Guillemette along with other family members, received miraculous news.
Justin, who’s lung had collapsed due to complications fighting the virus was finally coming home from his extended stay at The Ohio State University Hospital.
“I just kept saying what? Are you kidding me? Like wait! Hold on! Are we jumping the gun here,” Holli said. “The lead doctor told me; do you believe in the divine? He told me he doesn’t talk about much faith much, and I said, but yes, I do. And he said your husband is a miracle. That’s all I can tell you. There’s no rhyme or reason medically that we can find anything that would explain how he went from such a bad extreme to… hope.”
Hope through sickness and in health. Remaining faithful through the most trying of times imaginable.
“We’re glad to have him home,” Holli said. “I can’t even tell you how happy and how many prayers were answered.”
The symbol of their love remains strong, perhaps stronger than ever before.
“I finally got to put my ring back on. She wore it on this chain the whole time I was in the hospital and I can’t tell you how touched I was when she asked me if she could put it back on my finger,” Guillemette said. “I’m very blessed, very thankful… somebody up there’s watching out for me.”
Guillemette’s battle is far from over. He lost more than 50 pounds in what he calls the most life threatening and expensive weight loss plan you can think of… he’s relearning to walk, stand, even eat food with a fork.
“It’s unbelievable the things that, you know like going to the bathroom, taking a shower, just getting dressed in the morning, brushing your teeth it is unbelievable how hard it is to relearn how to do stuff like that,” Guillemette said. “It’s pretty taxing just to walk from point A to point B and I look at myself in the mirror and I’m like… you know it’s definitely not a diet plan I would recommend. It’s expensive and it’s very very hard on the body. If you recover at all. But getting through that it makes me feel a little stronger. Gives me something to look forward to every day.”
He also hopes to someday return to his volunteer service at the Pipe Creek Fire Department.
He’ll also be receiving his COVID vaccine as soon as doctors say he’s medically able to do so.
“I plan on getting the Pfizer vaccine and I was actually intending to get it before all this happened I just… it all happened so fast,” Guillemette said. “It’s just been one step at a time. Day by day progression. Here I am. I missed a lot this summer… but its way better than what coulda happened to me. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for that’s for sure.”