'Put through the wringer': NC FF recalls COVID-19 coma, ventilator experience

"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department Firefighter Corey Spencer said of his battle with the virus


By Simone Jasper
The News & Observer

RALEIGH, N.C. — Corey Spencer was on the phone with a friend when he had trouble breathing and knew it was time to get help.

The 26-year-old North Carolina firefighter said he remembers screaming for help inside a hospital before he blacked out in late May.

Firefighter Corey Spencer shows young visitors around the Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department in 2015.
Firefighter Corey Spencer shows young visitors around the Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department in 2015. (Photo/Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department)

"About a month later I woke up looking at a light and a ceiling," he told McClatchy News. "I didn't know where I was."

As he was removed from a ventilator, Spencer said he was having trouble piecing together what happened in the days after he tested positive for COVID-19. He eventually learned he had to be resuscitated and was in a coma.

"I was put through the wringer," Spencer said. "Just physically and mentally, I'm still trying to process everything that really happened."

Spencer spent about six weeks in the hospital, but he wasn't alone. He said he was grateful that first responders visited him and reached out to his mom on social media.

"We ask that you would keep Firefighter Corey Spencer in your thoughts and prayers as he continues to fight this battle," Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department wrote on Facebook in June.

Spencer, a volunteer firefighter, has been with the department for five years and lives at a station in Greensboro. He said he was born with a passion for firefighting and had the roles reversed during his hospital stay.

"You're on the opposite side of the spectrum," he said. "People are taking care of you. And you still want to do everything for yourself, but your body's not able to."

Spencer said he got out of the hospital last week and was sent to a rehab center. While he looks forward to sleeping in his own bed and enjoying a home-cooked meal, he also plans to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

"He saves people's lives every day ... my boss here got vaccinated because of Corey," his mom, Linda Spencer, told WGHP.

During the pandemic, health officials have urged adults to get their shots to help protect against the virus. In North Carolina, the majority of recent coronavirus cases are among people who haven't been vaccinated, The News & Observer reported Friday.

"I never thought it would happen to me," Spencer said. "I was hard-headed. I was thinking: I'm young .... It hit me harder than it hit anybody else I know. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy."

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(c)2021 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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