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KEEPING THE FAITH: 80-year-old East Texas woman beats COVID-19, husband of 60 years loses battle

Through FaceTime, prayer and the help of nurses at UT Health Tyler, Vearline returned home from a more than 100 day fight in the hospital, but one thing was missing.

TYLER, Texas — We’re more than six months into the pandemic and so far people of all ages have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Through FaceTime videos with family, and the help of nurses at UT Health Tyler, Vearline Roughley overcame the virus after spending more than 100 days in the hospital, but one thing was still missing, her husband Raymond Roughley. 

“My mom is a very, very strong lady. She always gives us advice about how to make sure to one of course help others, but she's always pushed us to do our best,” Shenna Roughley, daughter of Vearline said. 

Vearline Roughley, turned 80 years old in the spring of 2020. 

“March the second, my mom celebrated her eightieth birthday and my dad, we were able to bring him from the nursing facility, and I sat them down and I interviewed the two of them and talked about what made it work," Shenna said.

In addition to her 80 years of life, Vearline also celebrated 60 years of marriage, to her husband Raymond Rougely. 

Credit: Shenna Rougley
Raymond and Vearline Rougely

“Both of them always say, if I had to do it over again, I would, to the exact same person.”

A month after the two celebrations, Vearline tested positive for COVID-19, eventually landing in the hospital. A couple days later, Shenna’s father Raymond also tested positive for COVID-19, and was admitted into UT Health Tyler. 

“Neither one of them really knew they were in the same hospital,” Shenna said. “I think we all were all shocked. One of the things I was so afraid of at that time because you know COVID-19 was basically a death sentence. At that point, I felt that i was going to lose my entire family.”

Shenna kept in constant contact with the nurses at UT Health Tyler.

“We told Sheena, you know, more and more into it that her mom when doing good, we didn't think she was gonna survive and Sheena would call every day and then it got to where we were able to face time so that she could see her mom,” Noralea Page, one of the nurses that took care of Vearline said. 

“My mom, she, her breathing was not good at all. She had double pneumonia, and through this process, she developed kidney failure, her kidneys completely stopped working. They did so much to try to save my mom,” Shenna said. 

After not knowing if her mom would survive, they decided to take Vearline off the ventilator, eventually placing her back on it again. 

Meanwhile, Shenna's dad was also taking a turn for the worse. 

“One of the interesting conversations I had with my dad, and I hadn't told him that, my mom was in the hospital at UT Tyler,” Shenna said. “He asked, 'Sheena is Vearline in this hospital?' And I said, yes. I don't know how he knew.”

After weeks of batting COVID-19, on May 15th, Raymond died. 

“I’m like, I can't lose both of my parents,” Shenna said. 

A day later, the doctor told Shenna, Vearline likely only had two weeks left to live. 

At that point they decided to take her off sedation, finally seeing some life back in Vearline. 

“All of a sudden her kidneys just started back working. and those doctors I think each doctor added a piece to it to her road to recovery,” Shenna said. “When we would pray for our mom would call and talk to them, sometimes use their personal devices to allow me to zoom, or allow me to FaceTime with her.”

Vearline was released from the hospital after 101 days. 

“We know we still had a horrible secret hanging over our heads.”

Shenna still had to tell her mom that her husband of 60 years had passed away. 

“That's the part that she struggles with daily that she wasn't there for him. She was still fighting for her life,” Shenna said. 

“When it came to Mrs. Roughley, I honestly believe that her family's faith, her family's fight and hearing her family through FaceTime, music through prayer, I believe that's what got her through this,” Noralea said. 

“Miracles do happen," Shenna said. “My mom is a walking miracle. I learned that god is real. I learned that COVID is real. I want to also encourage people who are actually sitting on the side of looking at their loved ones and thinking about if their loved ones are going to make it. I want to encourage them that look, we have a miracle. Miracles do happen, they're happening all over. You just have to keep the faith. If it doesn't necessarily turn out the way that you want it to turn out, like in the case of my dad, God has a reason. Everything happens for a reason. My dad was tired and god was ready for him. I just learned that family is so important and to lean on others and to allow others to help you. Despite all the bad things that are happening. There's some really, really good people.” 

Vearline is encouraging everyone to wear a mask. Her motto is “You don’t want this. Wear a mask.”