Local track and field coach struggling with COVID for months urges vaccination


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OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (KCTV) – A local track coach has been struggling with COVID for months and may need a lung transplant because of it.

Tom Lester was sitting in a recliner at his ex-wife’s house in Overland Park on Thursday afternoon. As he spoke, a shrill breath that sounded like a punctuated hiss every few words

“I want no one to experience what I am going through. This is, this is hell, ”he said.

Lester has been an assistant boys track coach at Blue Springs High School for the past five years. He spent a week as an assistant boys’ cross country coach before heading to Lee’s Summit Medical Center in August with breathing difficulties.

Within a week he was in intensive care. He was hospitalized for 48 days. He’s been in rehab and therapy for 70 days and continues.

Lester now has crooked tubes all around him. He can’t go anywhere without oxygen, and even with it, he can’t get far.

“Doing the simplest things, getting up to make a peanut butter sandwich, is a struggle,” he described.

A tall guy, his weight before he was hospitalized was 215 pounds. He lost 65 pounds after having blood clots in his lungs and then a collapsed lung.

He moved in with his ex-wife, the mother of his two daughters and still a close friend, to help restore him to some semblance of health.

“I have to get stronger. I must eat. Debbie helps me with that, ”he said.

He went to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing. He had seen the information on the Delta variant of COVID. He thought he should go to the hospital just in case. Still, he thought he wouldn’t be there for long.

“I was stupid enough not to have the hang of it. I didn’t really have a major reason. I just chose not to get it, ”he explained.

“It’s not that he’s against it. He said to me, ‘It’s going to be fine,’ ”said Debbie Mann, his ex-wife.

“I’m pretty healthy for a 57-year-old guy,” he recalls, thinking.

That was the reason he had ignored him. Now he takes pleasure in being the reason an old friend took the step to get the shot in October after seeing how Lester was doing.

“It scared him. And he and I talked. And the next day he said, ‘Tom, I went to get the vaccine because of you.’ I was very happy, “he said.” I was happy to have influenced a person. It’s a start.

He notes that physical health issues are not limited to him. This is impacting others who now have to help care for and transport him to and from medical appointments. It’s her only real time outside Mann’s house.

Mann said it was a blessing for her and their daughters to take care of him after all he had done for them. This is their chance to give back.

Lester’s days are now spent most of the time in front of the TV, watching anything sport. What drives him to continue is the idea of ​​becoming a coach again.

“I want, even if it’s in a golf cart,” he said.

His life as a coach was to encourage children. Now he’s training a larger audience.

“Let me be the case study in [what happens] do not have the hang. Go get it, ”he implored. “You can always get [COVID], but I don’t think you will almost get what I had to go through.

It wasn’t just his health that was affected. Long hospital stays and breathing equipment are expensive.

Mann showed us a lightweight, portable oxygen tank he had his eye on, so he could move around more often. It cost $ 2,500.

Some in the running world have started fundraising on GoFundMe.

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