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Tammy Hawkins
September 14, 2021

“I Got a Second Chance at Life”

ThedaCare patient shares COVID-19 story, encouraging community to take precautions.

During the summer of 2021, Tammy Hawkins was staying busy, working two jobs and spending time with friends and family. After a camping trip, she was surprised when she noticed she had a fever.

“At first I was not very concerned,” she recalled. “Then, the fever gradually started to increase. And that’s when I began to worry.”

She tested positive for COVID-19. Symptoms started to worsen for Hawkins and she was admitted to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton.

“That’s when it became serious,” she said. “I had to come to terms with the fact that I might not live. That was difficult for me. I did not know if I would go home again.”

Hawkins, 48, spent more than 30 days in the hospital, both in the Intensive Care Unit and the COVID Unit. Her family stayed in touch with nurses and doctors. They also set up a Go Fund Me page, sharing updates with loved ones, even when the updates were not always the best.

“I was very close to being put on a ventilator,” she recalled. “I knew if I survived, I would have a long road ahead of me.”

After weeks of touch-and-go moments, Hawkins began to recover. She was discharged in mid-August with a Code Happy Celebration.

“I was so happy to go home,” she said. “I was a bit scared to be alone. I was just ready to learn to live again.”

She is now undergoing occupational and physical therapy, slowing regaining her strength.

“I knew it would be difficult, but never thought it would be this hard,” she said. “When I first came home, I would need four or five breaks just to make it from room to room. Now, I can make it in one trip. It shows me that I am improving every day.”

Hawkins said she is trying to stay positive. She hopes by sharing her story, it will help others avoid her experience.

“I was not vaccinated and was not always masking,” she said. “I was tired of hearing about COVID. I thought it was just a cold, and if I did get it, I would be fine. I was wrong.”

Hawkins said after she makes a full recovery, she will be vaccinated, as has been recommended by her care teams.

She is proud of her family and friends – many of whom saw what she went though and choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think it is different when it is someone you know and you see them go through this serious illness,” she said. “I cannot stress this enough – please, get vaccinated and wear a mask. You do not have to be older or in poor health to become very sick, it impacts everyone differently. Don’t take the chance, protect yourself and others.”

As she reflects on the past few months, Hawkins said it has put things into perspective.

“This changed my life, and I will never be the same again,” she said. “I will be spending more time with my family, especially my grandson and new granddaughter. I am just going to take it all day-by-day. I got a second chance at life, and I know that not everyone will be that lucky. I am incredibly grateful to be here today.”

ThedaCare encourages all community members who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, do so. In addition to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, ThedaCare also encourages community members to adhere to masking recommendations from the CDC, stay home when you are feeling sick, get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and physically distance when you are with others outside of your household.

For more information about COVID-19, vaccines, testing, visitor restrictions and other important news and updates, please visit thedacarecovid19.org/.

Image Captions: Tammy Hawkins spent more than 30 days in the hospital, both in the Intensive Care Unit and the COVID Unit. She shares photos of how COVID-19 impacted her health, and how she continues to recover. She also wants community members to take precautions against the virus such as getting vaccinated, masking and staying home when sick.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.