Duval County

‘Living 2 different lives:’ Father goes home after 62-day hospital stay in Jacksonville for COVID-19

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Josh Atkinson wasn’t the patient doctors were expecting at Baptist Hospital in Jacksonville. Several times, doctors didn’t think he would make it out alive.

Sixty-two days later—58 of which were in the ICU—he finally made it home.

“Sorry I missed you. I will be away from the office until July 24th or so.”

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Thirty-three-year-old Josh Atkinson recorded that voicemail from his hospital bed right after being admitted to hospital for COVID-19.

“I figured I would get sick a couple days a week whatever and be back at work.”

The father of two still has that message as his voicemail because he didn’t make it back to work in July or August or September.

He was in the hospital for 62 days fighting to stay alive.

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One of his ICU doctors, Dr. Eddy Gutierrez, explains, “There were numerous times where we thought we were going to lose Josh, to be completely frank.”

Atkinson’s wife Ashleigh said it was a rollercoaster.

“He would be doing really, really good and then the next day they would call because he wasn’t going to make it.”

His lungs collapsed six times while in the ICU. Doctors thought he was going to need a double lung transplant to survive, but he was too weak to be transported. He was on a ventilator and his chances of making it out were very slim.

But Atkinson doesn’t remember any of it.

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“I think it was the good Lord’s mercy I don’t remember.”

Ashleigh explains, “I feel like we’ve been living two different lives. For him it feels like he’s just been without us for two weeks and for me and my two girls it’s been two months.”

Despite all odds, their prayers were answered.

Sixty-two days later, Atkinson was strong enough to go home.

“My four-year-old whispered to me I was crying and she said, ‘Mommy, you don’t have to cry anymore. Daddy’s right here with us’ and that just did it for me.”

An experience that opened their eyes to how precious life is. It also changed their minds on the virus and the vaccine too.

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“There’s nothing the vaccine can do that could cause me any more pain than I was feeling at that time.”

Atkinson exclaims, “As soon as I can get the shot, I’m planning on getting it.”

After following his story, almost everyone in their hometown in Georgia got vaccinated. He is still not able to go back to work, but their family is back together under one roof.