The NEW Old Me
COVID-19 has dealt Omega Huggins-Brownlee a harsh blow, but months later she’s still fighting back with everything she has.
“I count it all joy,” says the 36-year-old from Wren. “Sometimes God puts us in situations that make us uncomfortable and that we don’t think are fair. But it’s only because He wants to make us into what He wants us to be.”
Omega, who worked as a cosmetologist and event coordinator, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Dec. 22, 2021. “I went to the doctor for sinus drainage,” she says. “I thought I was just going to get a shot and call it a day because I had a Christmas dinner to get to.” However, things didn't turn out as she had planned.
Before long, Omega developed pneumonia in both lungs. “By that time, I could hardly breathe,” she says. While never admitted into the hospital, she was placed on oxygen, and days later, developed pleurisy in the lining of her lungs.
Omega had been living a vegan lifestyle and had lost weight, yet the scales were now tipping in the opposite direction. “I kept getting bigger and bigger,” she says, from fluid that was accumulating throughout her body. “I couldn’t lay down; no matter how I positioned my body, I felt uncomfortable. I was smothering.”
Omega made multiple trips to her primary physician, Dr. Vernon Rayford, and the ER during January. Toward the end of that month her voice became hoarse. “I couldn’t talk above a whisper,” she says.
In February, Omega was referred to pulmonologist Dr. Robert McEachern of Pulmonary Consultants in Tupelo. “He prayed with me and told me, ‘you’re a living testimony with all the stuff you’ve been through. God has kept you here for a reason, and I know that it was Him that has kept you through it all,’” she says. “I said, ‘Lord, you just keep sending people my way to confirm that you’ve still got me.’”
Later that month, she went back to the ER with chest pain and was referred to cardiologist Dr. Murray Estess with Cardiology Associates of North Mississippi.
Around that same time, she started experiencing significant tremors and pain in her extremities. “I have problems walking and gripping things,” she says.
Many use the term “COVID long-hauler.” In its aftermath, the virus ravaged her heart, kidneys, lungs, muscles, joints, vision and vocal cords. “Every week, every month, it seems like there is something new,” she says. “Nobody really knows why COVID has done this.”
By March, Dr. McEachern determined that Omega’s diaphragm was only operating at 50%, which causes her lungs not to expand as they should. “He said that I was 1% away from being put on a ventilator,” she says.
Once she was able, Dr. McEachern referred Omega for physical, occupational and speech therapy at NMMC’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. Still relying on a supplemental oxygen tank, at first she couldn't walk 5-10 feet without having to rest. Slowly but surely, she is rebuilding her strength and endurance.
If nothing else, Omega says this ordeal has taught her to appreciate the little things in life because “I look at the fact that I could’ve been gone.”
“I can’t wait to get back to the old me, but it will be the NEW old me,” she says. “When I get back to 100%, we’re gonna have a HALLELUJAH party. I’m going to be giving God thanks and praises for bringing me out.”
COVID-19 'long hauler' Omega Huggins-Brownlee is still fighting her way back.