CANAL POINT — “I am so thankful for the prayers of the saints,” said 58-year-old Bill Taylor, who pastors the Canal Point Baptist Church. Pastor Taylor is home with his family after spending 11 days in Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade. His ordeal began on March 30, when he was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19.
Every Monday, Pastor Taylor went to visit his 89-year-old uncle in Belle Glade. Monday afternoons were their special times together, and his uncle, a Korean War veteran, would share stories of the past.
On March 16, they had their weekly visit, and on March 20, Pastor Taylor got a phone call from a cousin letting him know he needed to quarantine himself, because his uncle had been diagnosed with COVID-19. He put himself in isolation, and they canceled church services. By March 30, he was not feeling well at all and went to see his primary care physician at Lake Medical Center in Belle Glade, Susan McMillan. When she took his temperature, it was 102 degrees, and he was struggling to breathe. She immediately sent him to Lakeside Medical Center. She called ahead to let them know he was on his way, and when he arrived, he was taken to a back entrance and put in a back room away from all other patients while they prepared a room for him.
The hospital did a chest X-ray, CT scans and blood work and admitted him to the ICU unit, where they put him in a negative pressure room. This room has its own air conditioning and ventilation so anything in the room stays in the room. “I was so impressed with the care I received there,” he said. Any time anyone from the staff entered the room, they had to put on plastic gowns, one opening in the front and a second opening in the back, and gloves, a mask and a shield. Before leaving the room, they had to remove all this protective equipment so nothing from the room came out with them. “They were on it! They were so careful,” he said.
His family was not allowed to visit, but the staff was there for him through the dark hours.
Many of the nurses and doctors knew him already, because he frequently visits patients there. When they saw him in bed, they were a little shocked. “Probably as shocked as I was to be there,” he laughed. “It helped a lot to see familiar faces.” He was put on four different medications to treat the virus, including one used to treat malaria. He had a strange reaction to one of the medicines, and his entire body turned red. It wasn’t itchy or painful, though, and eventually went away.
He said he had all the typical symptoms you normally hear about, fever, shortness of breath, no sense of taste, and then, he ended up with double pneumonia. He already suffered from gout and whether it was related or not, he developed an infection in his joints which caused great discomfort, severe pain. They had to give him morphine and other painkillers. His pain level was a 10, he said. The lack of oxygen caused him to have trouble thinking. “It was like my brain shut down, because I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “I just couldn’t think well.”
He said he couldn’t have asked for better care, though. “Lakeside Medical was on top of it.” They called down and asked if there were special foods he wanted, and then made sure he got them. One day, a CNA was working on him, and she looked out the window and saw cars driving around the parking lot. She asked what in the world was going on, and he told her it was a parade made up of the members of the First Baptist Church in Belle Glade. They were there to pray for the medical staff, that they would stay well. She opened the door and yelled down the hallway, “There’s a parade for us outside!”
Although the virus took a toll on him, the thing he remembers most is the overwhelming support he and his family received from other Christians. Every time his wife, Beth, called, she would tell him about a phone call or a text or a post on Facebook from someone saying they were praying for him. People as far away as Africa said they were praying. Friends they hadn’t seen in 30 years were praying. Total strangers were praying. There are thousands of messages on his Facebook page offering encouragement. His family was in quarantine at home, and people from the church and the community brought food and other things they thought might be needed. Fellow pastors called and prayed with him over the phone.
“I can’t get over how the church has come together. People from around the world were praying for me, England, Australia, even Africa, and I didn’t even know it,” he said. “And there were no denominational bounds. I had Baptist church members, Methodist, Catholic and others, all praying for me.” Members of his church have done everything they can to meet the needs of their pastor and his family.
“Of course, I had the best nurse in the world in my wife, Beth. She has been there for me every step of the way.”
No one else in his church has the virus as far as he knows, but they have not been tested, because no one has any symptoms.
While Pastor Taylor was in the hospital, his uncle passed away from COVID-19 complications. “My uncle was a believer, and he didn’t have to go through the recovery phase of the illness, all the coughing and the medicine. He’s in the presence of our Lord,” he said.
“To see the church come together, to see the prayers of the saints be lifted up, meant the world to me. I don’t think anyone in politics had a clue how the church would come together when there is no place for them to gather. I don’t think Mark Zuckerburg had a clue that Facebook would be the way they communicated, Christian to Christian, church to church.”
Although he is still weak, he said every day he gets a little stronger and is looking forward to preaching his next sermon.