Husband and wife battle COVID-19 together

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A married couple in their 60s is among the dozens to fall ill from the coronavirus in Kent County. Their family feared both might die from the sickness.

Virginia and Johnny Burns, 65 and 69, were taken to Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids on March 21 after developing symptoms. Virginia Burns was hospitalized and ultimately sedated and put on a ventilator. 

virginia and johnny burns
An undated courtesy image of Virginia and Johnny Burns.

Johnny Burns was treated in the emergency room and released, only to be rushed back to the hospital days later, when he was also placed on ventilator life support, according to his family.

Family members tell News 8 both were tested and diagnosed with COVID-19 — among 108 confirmed cases in Kent County as of Monday.

Virginia Burns was able to make significant steps toward recovery and spoke with News 8 by phone before she was released from the hospital Tuesday evening.

“Everybody needs to take this thing serious,” she said. “Because this thing will kill you.”

She said she was in intense pain before deciding to go to the emergency room.

“I cried all night long before I came to emergency,” she said. “They swabbed me and they admitted me… I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get enough air down my lungs.”

Grateful for her release from the hospital, Virginia Burns said her release was bittersweet as she left her husband there. She said he was in a room down the hall from her with tubes down his throat so the machines can assist his breathing.

“My husband is fighting for his life right now in this hospital,” Virginia Burns said. “Thank God I beat it, but he’s fighting for his life right now.”

She was not able to see her husband while at the hospital but the staff at Saint Mary’s helped her communicate to him.

“I can’t go see him,” she said. “I have them put the phone to his ear at night and I talk to him and I encourage him to hold on.”

Virginia Burns also left with a significant concern on her mind as hospitals forecast filling up and running out of equipment.

“My question to them is — when I leave this hospital, are you all going to need that ventilator that he’s on and pull the plug on him?” she asked. “Do not mess with the plug on his ventilator.”

She said she was assured by hospital staff that her husband would not lose his ventilator.

Now, as she returns home to her family, Virginia Burns is left to wonder whether she is still infected. She said her request for another test was denied due to supply shortages.

As she follows updates on her husband’s condition, she is intent on spreading the word about how dangerous the coronavirus is. Minutes after arriving home, she addressed her loved ones on Facebook.

“This virus is so serious,” she said “You all need to go — just go in and close up and sit down… Give God the glory and the honor that he let you live one more day without this virus. This virus is so serious.”

Virginia Burns said she and her husband had not traveled recently. She doesn’t know how they contracted the virus.