Just more than two weeks ago John Thames found himself at Russell Medical positive for COVID-19, in intensive care on a ventilator. Tuesday he was greeted by Santa as he stepped into a vehicle at Russell Medical headed home for the holidays.

As Thames was wheeled from his hospital room, he was greeted by many of the staff who were part of his treatment in the last few weeks at Russell Medical in the ICU and a normal hospital room. Russell Medical nurse practitioner Tammy Coker and Russell Medical chief medical officer Dr. Michele Goldhagen were the first to greet Thames and his wife Margie as John was wheeled from his hospital room.

Margie told Coker the staff at Russell Medical had been so helpful and inspirational during John’s recovery.

“You have given us a revival as much as you have helped us,” Thames told Coker.

Coker said it was Thames and husband that provided inspiration for Russell Medical staff.

Staff line the halls of Russell Medical with a “Walk of happiness” before John was greeted by Santa at his car.

John is the seventh successful extubation of a COVID-19 patient at Russell Medical. The first was Michael Goggans in May.

Thames release isn’t the only present Russell Medical is receiving before Christmas. Russell Medical marketing director Susan Foy said the medical system has been told 1,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine have been shipped to the hospital. Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna is a two-dose vaccine separated by 28 days.

“They are en route,” Foy said. “They have been shipped.”

Foy said plans are already underway for Russell Medical’s vaccination program to treat staff and other frontline healthcare staff in the area.

“Our education and infection control departments are organizing a vaccination process,” Foy said. “Plans are to vaccinate in the coming days our frontline workers, physicians and other healthcare workers in the community.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.