Jarrell Hayes played on the offensive and defensive lines at Ferriday High from 2004-07 before joining the Ferriday High coaching staff in 2011.
But he never experienced any kind of blindside hit like the one he took from COVID-19 in late July of this year.
“I know it was a Saturday,” Hayes said. “It started like a normal cold, but it began progressing way faster than what I thought. I remember being very fatigued and weak. I had heard you have trouble breathing with COVID, but I could breathe. But I had no energy to move. I just stayed in bed. I wasn’t eating or anything.”
Hayes said he tried toughening it out until that Monday, but I ended up going to the urgent care in Vidalia where it was confirmed he had COVID-19
“ I was vomiting liquid every 10-to-20 minutes,”Hayes said. “It was like stomach acid, it burned a lot.”
Hayes then visited Trinity Medical. He was shipped to Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.
“I spent maybe two or three days there and they told me they didn’t see anything wrong,” Hayes said. ”I couldn’t figure out how because I was still weak and not eating. I still felt really bad.”
Hayes was released from Oschner and returned to Ferriday.
“It didn’t feel right at all,” he said. “I came home for a day or two and one day I blacked out.”
Hayes said all he remembers is trying to get out of the bed.
“I just hit the ground,” he said. “After that I don’t even remember where I was. I woke up and I was in the hospital.”
Hayes’ wife, Rosie, called for an ambulance and he was taken to Trinity Medical.
“It took me a while to understand everything that was going on,” Hayes said. “I remember things in bits and pieces, but my wife had to put it all together for me.”
Hayes, who is a diabetic, was then shipped to Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport.
“They told me there I had received damage to my kidney since I was a diabetic,” Hayes said. “They called it acute kidney injury. From there it was a matter of getting my numbers back up and trying to figure out what they’re going to do about my kidneys, trying to get them to function back on their own.”
Hayes was put on dialysis.
“I was on dialysis for about a month-and-a-half or two months,” he said. “I was on it my last week in Shreveport.”
Hayes then spent the next six weeks being treated with dialysis in Alexandria.
“It was a very rough time,” he said. “I didn’t have strength to walk. I had to start all over. I was in a COVID fog where it messes with your memory. A lot of stuff I didn’t remember.”
Hayes, who teaches World Geography, had to go on medical leave from Ferriday High.
“I was worried then, but at the time there was so much going on that I was just trying to focus and take it one day at a time so I could get my strength back,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was even going to be able to come back. They were trying to see if I was going to need a walker or a cane. I was doing a lot of worrying and trying to figure out what was going on.”
Hayes said the scariest part was the stories he was hearing while he was in the hospital.
“When I first was admitted it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “By the time I was leaving, one of the nurses told me they turned a whole floor into a COVID floor. I was blessed to get out of there when I did.”
Hayes was taken off dialysis in mid-September. He returned to the teaching at Ferriday on October 4.
Hayes sat in the end zone for Ferriday’s home game with Bastrop on September 10.
“It was killing me just sitting at the house,” he said.
Hayes sat in the end zone of the October 1 game with Mangham.
He returned to the sideline the following week for Ferriday’s game at Southern Lab.
“At that point I was just happy to be back out there,” Hayes said. “My adrenaline was pumping. I was just happy to be in the mix again. That week at practice I was just trying not to overdo it. Even while I was away I was still keeping in touch. I watched a few practices.”
He was back on the Ferriday sideline for the October 15 game with General Trass.
“I just took it all in,” Hayes said. “I enjoyed everything. It was a bit overwhelming. I was like, ‘I finally get a chance to be back out here at home doing something I love.’”
Hayes went down from 265 pounds to 230 pounds. He is back up to 265 pounds.
“Once I started eating, I started eating good again,” he said. “But I’ve been eating a lot healthier.”
Hayes said he still doesn’t know how he contracted COVID.
“It just hit me out of nowhere,” he said. “When I woke up that Saturday I was feeling fine but I was gradually getting worse. My body started rejecting everything”
Hayes said not a day goes by where he doesn’t think about his experience.
“It was life-changing,” he said. “I didn’t know how things were going or how really serious it was. There were times when I was really wanting air and water. I was hooked up to all kinds different machines with different lines and IVs to get back in stable condition.”
And Hayes still has a hard time remembering everything.
“I kind of joke now looking back with my family that I just didn’t know where I was,” he said. “They came by and supported me and saw me every day. I had a someone visiting me every day which was a big deal.”
Hayes said the entire process was eye-opening. He shared his story with members of the football team.
“I spoke to the kids one day and told them to be safe and be careful because you never know,” he said. “COVID affects everyone differently. Everyone doesn’t have the same reaction. When I was in the hospital I was constantly hearing about people passing or getting sicker. I was blessed to make it out.”
Hayes said he’s had to wait about a month for a COVID vaccination.
“I should be at about that point where I can get one now,” he said. ”I still have lower back pain. And I’m still trying to get my full strength back. But I was able to come back pretty fast thanks to the Lord. My numbers kept improving weekly with my iron levels and potassium.”
Hayes said he looks at life a lot differently now.
“I don’t just go through the motions anymore,” Hayes said. “When something like that happens it makes you easily appreciate everything and all the people in your life, especially the people who stood beside me.”
Hayes said he is much more aware of safety precautions now.
“It makes you question everything,” he said. “I wash my hands a lot and spray down everything I can. I am much more precautious in everything I do. I think about getting it again all the time. I don’t know if I could be that lucky to make it out a second time. When I got it, it had been going on for a long time. I thought I had missed it and made it through the bad part. But when it got me, it got me.”