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With the many advances in cancer treatment, today’s cancer patients have more and more reasons for hope. Portraits of Hope are the incredible stories of our patients and their journeys of hope and survival. Click on a thumbnail and scroll down to view each story.

  • Hope and Healing During
    the Fight of a Lifetime
  • Celebrating Stories of Recovery:
    Wayne Wells
  • Celebrating Stories of Recovery:
    Kirk Williams
  • Celebrating Stories of Recovery:
    Cynthia Parks
  • Celebrating Stories of Recovery:
    Shaquilla James

Hope and Healing During
the Fight of a Lifetime

By Kelly Hughes

In years to come, the history books will share the story of 2020 -- the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, this year has been a time of uncertainty and change, but for some it has been a lesson in the value of hope.

Herminigildo Macalincag, Jr., “Hermie,” works full-time at the McLeod Health Carolina Forest Emergency Department (ED) as a Respiratory Therapist and part-time at another rehabilitation facility. Like all of the McLeod Health staff, Hermie works tirelessly to do his part taking care of patients during the height of the crisis. As a Respiratory Therapist, he is a frontline healthcare worker and a critical member of the team of specialists treating COVID-19 patients.

Hermie was in Charleston with his wife, Esperanza, and their two sons, Kyle and Jolo in early July. Kyle attends the College of Charleston, and Jolo is a senior at Socastee High School.

During their trip, Hermie noticed fatigue, a mild back ache and a cough beginning to develop. He did not think too much of it at first -- he had been working long hours recently and thought it may just be exhaustion.

When they returned from Charleston, Hermie still felt ill, so he and his wife decided to get tested for COVID-19. His wife tested positive for COVID-19, but she remained asymptomatic. Hermie tested negative but knew he may still have COVID-19.

As his symptoms quickly worsened, Hermie immediately recognized the need to isolate himself from his family and seek medical care. He returned to McLeod Health Carolina Forest, but this time as the patient.

Dr. Daniel Baker, Emergency Medicine physician, and his staff went to work diagnosing their friend and colleague. “I asked Dr. Baker to show me the chest X-ray,” said Hermie. “When I saw it, I knew I had COVID-19.”

Often, patients who test positive for COVID-19 have a chest X-ray that presents with unique characteristics.

After a combination of medications and treatments, Hermie felt better and wanted to go home. Dr. Baker urged Hermie to be admitted to the hospital, but Hermie believed he could manage his medications and treatments at home.

“That was a mistake,” recalled Hermie. “Two days later I started feeling a lot worse. I knew my shortness of breath had worsened and when I saw my lips turning blue, I told my wife to take me back to the ED.”

Hermie was admitted to the McLeod Health Seacoast COVID Unit on July 14. He was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) two days after being admitted, as his symptoms had progressed.

“I was relieved to move to the ICU. I know most everyone on that team because of my work as a Respiratory Therapist,” said Hermie. “Since my family could not be with me, it was like being with my second family.”

While the staff continued to monitor his progress and manage his treatment, Hermie watched his oxygen saturation numbers decline. As a Respiratory Therapist he knew these levels indicated that he may need to be placed on the ventilator soon to help his lungs heal.

Hermie also knew the value of proning, or positioning a patient on their stomach so they are lying face down. Proning helps the lungs to expand and, in some patients, improves oxygen saturation.

“Every night I would be lying prone and my oxygen would drop into the low 80’s,” said Hermie. “I began to pray and ask the Lord to please send his Holy Spirit.

I would then see a light and have a peace that made me feel stronger and gave me hope to continue to fight.”

During his hardest days in the ICU, Hermie’s “second family,” his co-workers, showered him with their love and prayers.

“Their support strengthened and encouraged me deeply,” said Hermie. “My director and co-workers would pray with me in my room, and Carole Bailey, ICU Director, stopped by every morning to cheer me on.”

“Caring for one of your own ‘work’ family members who is very sick weighs heavily on your heart,” said Bailey. “I am so proud of our McLeod Health team. They have and continue to provide excellent care to all of our patients.”

Hermie’s team of physicians treated him with a combination of medications including Remdesivir, steroids and antibiotics. He also received a transfusion of convalescent plasma therapy -- blood donated by someone who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. These antibodies can boost the patient’s ability to fight the virus.

“Two days after I received the plasma, I told the doctors I was finally feeling better,” said Hermie. “I did not know if it was the plasma, but for the first time, I felt like I was going to make it.”

After seven days in the ICU, Hermie was transferred back to the COVID Unit.

While his family still could not visit him inside, they found another way -- through the window of his first-floor room in the COVID unit.

“They would come and see me at the window, and we talked by phone,” said Hermie. “It meant so much just to be able to see my family.”

Committed to getting home to them as soon as possible, Hermie focused on his breathing and oxygen levels.

“Sitting in the bed truly gives you a new level of empathy for the patient and what they experience,” said Hermie. “Going through this gave me a new perspective.”

On August 4, Hermie was discharged from McLeod Health Seacoast.

“The staff lined the halls and cheered for me as I was leaving the hospital. I almost cried,” said Hermie. “I was so happy seeing those nurses from the ICU and COVID Unit waving goodbye. It was one of the happiest days of my life.”

After a few weeks of recovering at home and building his endurance, Hermie returned to work at the McLeod Health Carolina Forest Emergency Department and continues to do what he does best -- take care of others.

“Hermie is very outgoing and loves people,” said George Christmas, Director of Respiratory Care Services. “We are so glad to have him and his smile back at work.”