'I've always believed in miracles': Raleigh man describes his near-death battle with COVID-19

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Corey McLamb tested negative for COVID-19, six weeks ago, but his body told him something was definitely wrong. He drove himself to WakeMed Cary and checked himself in. He did have the novel coronavirus and would be in a coma just days later. Doctors weren't sure if he'd make it out alive.

"I was clammy. I was hot. But I just knew I had to get to the hospital," McLamb said describing the days leading up to his long hospital stay.

The 50-year-old American Airlines customer service rep, who lives in Raleigh, is the father of a teenage daughter. He said he had no pre-existing conditions; his immune system was fine. And he says in the grips of the pandemic -- he'd been taking virus seriously.

"I didn't take it lightly. I was careful. I cleaned. I wiped. I wore a mask. I did all these things. And I still almost died," McLamb said.

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McLamb's first cousin, Valerie Rayner has been by his bedside for as long as she's been allowed. They're more like brother and sister.

"By Wednesday night, he was in a coma. And he was in a coma for about 30 days," Rayner said.

For much of August and September, McLamb, in a coma, was in isolation on a ventilator. At one point, his doctors at WakeMed Cary, gave him a one in four chance of surviving.

"His kidneys failed, his lungs failed. He was on life support," Rayner described. "The reports weren't good. They weren't good."

Not allowed inside her cousin's hospital room, Rayner would call his room phone and sing spirituals. His nurses would put the phone to his ear. Even in a coma -- she was certain her cousin could hear her

"(The nurses) were so gracious to put the phone to his ear and let me sing, let me pray, let me read the Bible over him," Rayner said.

And McLamb beat the odds. Eight days ago, he opened his eyes. Doctors have removed his breathing tube. His kidney catheter came out Thursday.

"I've always believed in miracles," McLamb said. "It was just hard for me to accept that I was the miracle."

Rayner added, "The doctors at a certain point did all they could do. It was up to God and Corey. And he's here."

The cousins both had nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses at WakeMed Cary -- for the compassion and care McLamb received. He's expecting to be released over the next couple of days and will undergo several more weeks of rehabilitation at WakeMed in Raleigh.

While he is still unsure about the long-term effects of COVID-19, McLamb says he plans to tell anyone who'll listen that they need to protect themselves.
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