BELTSVILLE, Md. — A Prince George’s County high school teacher is fighting for his life at a hospital after contracting COVID-19.
Jason Flanagan’s wife and mother tell us the 39-year-old is on a ventilator – but on Friday, they say he wiggled his toes and squeezed a nurse’s hand.
His current students at High Point High School in Beltsville, Maryland, as well as former students at Oxon Hill High School, have been rallying to support him.
"He’s going to pull through this," said his mother, Diane Flanagan McNinch. "He’s a young, healthy, non-drinking, non-smoking, young man."
McNinch said her son does not fit any of the groups doctors thought were at the highest risk. But for four days now, the English teacher and data coach has been sedated in the ICU with a ventilator helping him breathe.
His wife can scarcely believe how quickly the disease attacked him.
"It breaks my heart that I can’t be with him," said Leslie Flanagan. "There is something miraculous about the power of closeness, about loved ones being around you."
But coronavirus is so infectious that it keeps us apart just when we need each other most.
"I’m left alone with my thoughts, my fears, my doubts, my solitude. And my uncontrollable, inconsolable grief," said Leslie Flanagan.
She said her husband started having symptoms last week but they thought it was just a cold. But, then he started having trouble breathing and, on Tuesday when he got a chest x-ray, it revealed pneumonia. Health care workers said he was short on oxygen, so he went to the ER at Frederick Health Hospital. By 10 p.m. he was in intensive care.
"I’m a nervous wreck," his mother said. "I call the hospital four times a day. Me and Leslie switch back and forth. I’m just scared."
Jason Flanagan was a reporter. He went into teaching when his paper folded. His relatives say there’s been an outpouring of support from his students in Beltsville and Oxon Hill.
"Watching their posts and seeing them saying how much they liked being in Mr. Flanagan’s class," helps buoy her, his mother said.
Jason Flanagan puts a face to the fight against COVID-19. Relatives say his lesson is clear: We all have to do everything we can to stop it.
"I wish people would heed to everybody’s warnings, stay at home, self-quarantine, and don’t put other people’s lives at risk. This is serious," Flanagan's mother said.
Leslie Flanagan said she had to wait seven days to get her husband's coronavirus test results back. That, she said, just added to her agony.