Maureen Pickelman on an arctic vacation. Photo courtesy Kathy Rank.
Maureen Pickelman on an arctic vacation. Photo courtesy Kathy Rank.

Retired teacher Maureen Pickelman spent half a year recovering from the coronavirus. Here’s how her friends and faith saw her through.

MT. CLEMENS, Mich.—Six months ago, the coronavirus almost killed retired teacher Maureen Pickelman. Wednesday, she got her second injection of Pfizer’s vaccine.

She started feeling sick in May of 2020, but her first coronavirus test came back negative. Within weeks, the coronavirus had nearly claimed her life. Now nearly half a year in recovery, the 75-year-old Pickelman is fully immunized against the disease she spent 2020 fighting.

Her road to Wednesday wasn’t easy, but it was one she walked with faith and optimism. She needed a defibrillator implant to counteract how the disease ravaged her heart. Still, today, she deals with exhaustion. But, she says, she’s essentially recovered from her experience. 

“Since then I’ve just kinda been holding my own, pretty much knowing when I have to sit and rest,” Pickelman told The ‘Gander. “As long as I get a good night’s sleep and do that, I’m in [a] pretty good situation.”

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Half a year ago, Pickelman was in a dire situation. She had irregular heart rhythms, her heart was weaker than it should’ve been, and it had enlarged. A blood clot prevented her from having the procedure commonly used to correct arrhythmia so she was put on medication to manage the conditions. She was released with eight weeks of home nurse care, and a defibrillator in case of emergencies. Now, she’s largely in good condition and has been vaccinated. But throughout the process her spirits were high. 

Pickelman had the companionship of her roommate Kathy Rank, a fellow retired teacher and coronavirus survivor, and their dog Caboose. She also had an outpouring of support from former students. Now, as the public health crisis is better managed, she can even attend religious services again. This all helped her through the lonesome nature of 2020, especially as a survivor in recovery. 

“The isolation is not as bad as it could’ve been,” she said with a laugh. “It gives you a whole lot of time to think. Think and pray. Think and pray. That’s a lot of what I did.”

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She was excited to get her vaccination Wednesday. Being protected against possible reinfection is of course extremely important to her, but so is doing her part in ending the pandemic. Even so, she wanted to do her due diligence in researching the vaccine before getting immunized. Being Christian, she wanted to make sure the development and contents of the vaccine were consistent with her beliefs and values, and was relieved that Pfizer’s were. And she encouraged other Michiganders to do their research and get immunized as well.

“That’s the goal, that it’s going to improve lives for everyone,” she said. “It would go a whole lot better for everybody if everybody would just take a positive attitude toward the whole thing and do what they can to help wipe out the virus.”

That ties in to her core message to Michiganders: We’re all in this together.

“The main thing is, be helpful to one another,” Pickelman said.