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Gainesville man in hospice has battled through COVID-19
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Rickey Hedger and daughter Jessica Leach on her wedding day. Hedger of Gainesville has recovered from COVID-19 even as he lies in hospice dying from liver cancer, says Leach. Photo Courtesy Jessica Leach

A smoker for five decades who is now in hospice battling liver cancer, Rickey Hedger should have been another grim COVID-19 statistic.

“If (the coronavirus) should have taken anybody, it should have taken him,” said his daughter, Jessica Leach, who is helping to take care of her father.

Instead, the Gainesville man is believed to have recovered from the coronavirus, maybe even without showing symptoms, she said.

Hedger, 67, did have a low-grade fever at one point, but that may have been related to an infection he had. Otherwise, “he hasn’t any respiratory issues or anything,” Leach said.

What prompted Hedger to get tested was one morning recently, “he was very, very lethargic, not very responsive, didn’t know what was going on, so I had to call the EMTs,” she said.

“He was very dehydrated, so that could have been why he was so lethargic,” Leach said.

Hedger was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“He was there for a week and a half and was in a negative pressure room the whole time,” Leach said.

Negative pressure rooms do not allow air to escape the room, preventing airborne contaminants from spreading.

Hedger then was allowed to return home, where he was quarantined until Sunday, April 12, Leach said.

“There’s a hospice nurse who comes in about two times a week unless we need her more,” she said.

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Rickey Hedger of Gainesville has recovered from COVID-19 even as he lies in hospice dying from liver cancer, says his daughter/caregiver Jessica Leach. Photo Courtesy Jessica Leach

Hedger, a Vietnam War veteran who also has suffered from hepatitis C, was diagnosed with cancer about seven to eight years ago.

Leach and her mother, also helping to care for her father and her grandfather, haven’t been tested for the coronavirus.

Her doctor said to watch for symptoms, though.

So far, so good, although, “I’ve been taking everybody’s temperatures, and I Lysol everything,” Leach said. “And I have a 4-year-old (child) on top of everything, and my husband is still in Vermont.”

She had moved to Gainesville from Vermont to help care for her father and grandfather, who also is in hospice care at her parents’ home.

Leach, 31, also had started a new job as a retail store assistant manager. She has been furloughed from the job since March 28.

“It’s a big mess right now,” she said. “I’m trying to get unemployment, which is another big mess.”

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