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Local coronavirus survivors share stories of hope

Clevelander Carol Joiner is home; Geneva’s Stacey Unsinger still hospitalized but making progress

CLEVELAND — “Every time I took a few steps, I couldn’t breathe, I was tired.” Carol Joiner of Cleveland told 3News last month in phone interview from her hospital bed.

Today, Carol Joiner, who turned 61 while in the hospital, was home and walking her dog when 3News caught up with her.

“I didn’t know if I was going to make it, but I wanted to live and not die,” she said, dressed in a winter coat, ballcap and black facemask, holding on tightly to her dog Dolce.

One of more than 230 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Cleveland, Joiner is still playing it safe by keeping herself in quarantine, even on Easter Weekend.

“The doctors say I’m better, but we don’t know what this virus is yet,” she said. “My family is cooking food and I told them they can hand me the plates from the car in the driveway.”

She credits the doctors and nurses but says her family, dog -- and faith --  also helped her through.  

 “Know that whoever you chose to call your higher power that you have to tap into that spiritual belief that no matter what, you can fight through it,” said Joiner, a realtor who enjoys exercise and outdoor activities. “Life for me now, I don’t take anything for granted."

Reflecting on Good Friday, she said being spiritual made a difference.

“It’s not about a church home or building, it’s about having that relationship and who holds your hand. I know who holds my hand.”

Not home, but on the mend, is Stacey Unsinger, a Geneva mother of four who tested positive last month for COVID -19 and had to be admitted to University of Hospitals of Cleveland.

Her father Don Babich said Friday he is overwhelmed by her progress, though it’s been marked by and ups and downs, including multiple stays in the intensive care unit.

“She has come a long way in three weeks,” he said in a FaceTime interview on his phone. “It’s just unbelievable for someone that was two steps away from passing away, and now she is where she is at, smiling, bright blue eyes.”

He praised the staff at University Hospitals for helping keep her alive. 

Unsinger’s underlining health conditions that include autoimmune issues have slowed her recovery, Babich said, adding that doctors treated her with the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine.

She recently came off a ventilator but she still requires a feeding tube. But, Babich said, she is responding to family photos.

"She recognizes everybody and she smiles and it’s hard for us to talk and because she has a feeding tube, but she whispers a little bit and the nurses tell her what she says,” he said. “She mouths I love you and we tell her that we love her.”

Like Joiner, Babich says faith has help him and his daughter.

“There is hope in prayer that’s for sure,” he said. “I have a lot of people praying for her, thousands. It’s a wonderful time in our life and I’m grateful to be alive and think good things are about to happen.”

Click here for our special coronavirus section.

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