Local athletics coach grappling with COVID for months calls for vaccination | Coronavirus
OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) – A local track and field coach has been struggling with COVID for months and may need a lung transplant because of it.
Tom Lester was sitting on a recliner in Overland Park at his ex-wife’s house on Thursday afternoon. As he spoke, a gasp like a hiss was interrupted every few words
“I don’t want anyone to go through what I’m going through. It, it was hell,” he said.
Lester has been an assistant athletics coach at Blue Springs High School for the past five years. He passed a week as assistant cross country coach for the men’s teams before arriving at Lee’s Summit Medical Center in August with shortness of breath.
Within a week, he was in the ICU. He was hospitalized for 48 days. He was rehabilitated and treated for 70 days and continues.
Lester now has tubes twisted around him. He can’t go anywhere without oxygen, and even with it, he can’t go far.
“To do the simplest things, to make a peanut butter sandwich, is a struggle,” he describes.
A tall male, pre-hospital weight is 215 pounds. He lost 65 pounds after developing a blood clot in his lung, followed by a collapsed lung.
He moved in with his ex-wife, mother of two girls and still his best friend, to help him regain his normal health.
“I have to become stronger. I have to eat. Debbie is helping me with that,” he said.
He went to the hospital because he had trouble breathing. He watched the news about the Delta variant of COVID. He thought he should go to the hospital just in case. However, he thought he wouldn’t be there for long.
“I was stupid enough to not get a shot. I really don’t have a good reason. I just chose not to take it,” he explained.
“It’s not that he’s against it. He was like, ‘I’ll be fine,’ explains Debbie Mann, his ex-wife.
“I’m pretty healthy for a 57-year-old man,” he recalls thinking.
That’s why he ignored it. Now he’s happy to be the reason an old friend made the leap to get vaccinated in October after witnessing Lester’s situation.
“It scared him to death. And he and I talked. And the next day, he said, ‘Tom, I came and took pictures for you.’ I was very happy,” he said. “I’m glad I influenced one person. It was a start. ”
He notes that his troubles with his physical health are not limited to him. It impacts others who now need help looking after him and transporting him to and from medical appointments. It was his only real time outside of the Mann house.
Mann said it’s lucky for her and their daughters to care about him after all he’s done for them. It’s their chance to give back.
Lester’s days are mostly spent sitting in front of the TV, watching anything sporty. What kept him going was the idea of coaching again.
“I would, even if it was in a golf cart,” he said.
His life of coaching involved encouraging kids. Now, he is coaching to a larger audience.
“Let me be the case study in [what happens] can’t shoot. Go get it,” he begged. “You can still get [COVID], but I don’t think you’ll get it as close as I did. ”
Not only his health was affected. Long hospital stays and very expensive breathing equipment.
Mann showed us a portable, lightweight oxygen tank that he had his eye on, so he could move around more often. It costs $2,500.
Some of the running circles have already started fundraising on GoFundMe. You can find the link here.