On his feet again
Chris and Jenny Corcoron want to become Salvation Army officers, but the road has been riddled with obstacles. The largest one happened this year when Chris was diagnosed with a rare form of the coronavirus called “COVID toe.”
In May, Chris and Jenny were happily attending the Bellaire, Ohio, Corps. Chris worked at a group home in Wheeling, W.Va., for people with developmental disabilities while Jenny worked in the emergency room at Wheeling Hospital as a registrar.
One day, Chris got a call at 5 a.m. alerting him that one of the patients was sick with symptoms of COVID-19 and had gone to the hospital.
“As a safety precaution, I, along with three other staffers had to go in and live at the house for three weeks,” Chris recalls. “We shut the entire place down.”
During that time, Chris initially tested negative for COVID, but three staffers and six of the eight clients in the home came up positive.
“I’m sitting there in the hotbed of corona,” he said. “What happened was—I got it. I wasn’t sick, so I worked about a week and a half with it and didn’t know.”
Chris eventually did get sick and also contracted pneumonia. When he was admitted to the hospital, Chris felt a sore on his right foot and grew concerned because he is a diabetic.
“At that point, they were worried more about my pneumonia,” Chris said.
Doctors were also concerned when the oxygen level in his blood fell to about 70 percent. He was soon admitted to the intensive care COVID unit.
“My oxygen level was going down from there,” he said. “My pneumonia got so bad I couldn’t breathe. They didn’t do much about my foot. I was in pretty bad shape for a couple of weeks.”
The long ordeal
Chris was in the ICU for about a week and a full-blown infection developed on his foot and toes.
Running tests was problematic because of his positive COVID status, but doctors did some and found Chris had a blockage in his shin. Some of the arteries that fed blood to the last two toes on his right foot were completely blocked off.
“They said it was because COVID actually works against people with diabetes,” Chris said. “It affected the blood vessels in my leg. It started to actually deteriorate.”
Doctors didn’t perform surgery on Chris’s foot until the first week of August.
“What happened is that, with no blood supply, it just kind of rotted off,” Chris said. “I lost two toes and about a quarter of my right foot. I ended up in the hospital for another month because of that.”
Chris also had another operation to put stents in his leg to improve the blood flow.
“I didn’t see the kids for the whole summer,” he said.
At another point, Chris was in isolation for 90 days because he kept testing positive for COVID and needed two negative tests in a row to be discharged. He remembers the frustration of testing negative, followed by a series of positive tests.
“I ended up having COVID for four months,” he said. “The nurses couldn’t understand it.
“I didn’t get to see anyone—not my kids, not my wife, no one. I saw a nurse every few hours and she was in full garb. They dropped off my food and I couldn’t get out of bed the whole time. It was tough also because during this time I couldn’t go to church. There was no church to go to at the time anyway.”
The trial took a toll on his entire family. Jenny, who never tested positive for COVID, didn’t see much of the kids either. The couple’s three children lived for two months with Jenny’s mother, who was afraid of contracting COVID. Jenny got to visit but had to wear a face mask while sitting on the porch and could only speak to her children through the door.
“It was challenging, and it was hard to keep up the faith because of everything we were going through,” Jenny said. “I wasn’t even allowed to hug or hold my kids. I would have to call and talk to my kids on the phone.”
Turning the corner
Finally, just as the kids were about to return to school in September, Chris got to go home. As a former college football player at Morehead State and later a powerlifter, Chris stands 6-foot-3 and weighed 260 pounds at the time he was hospitalized. He lost 30 pounds in the hospital and was not allowed to put any weight on the foot for a while after his release.
Chris, who obtained a master’s degree in public health at West Virginia University after his college football days, is now back to work full time as a supervisor at a psychiatric hospital.
“I still have three–quarters of my foot,” he said. “I just had to learn to walk without the 4th and 5th toe. A good portion of the outside of my foot is gone. Every once in a while, when I’m walking, it’s kind of tough.”
Looking back on the ordeal, Chris admits his spiritual life took a tumble while he was hospitalized. He received encouragement from Major Louis Patrick, the corps officer in Bellaire, who talked to him nearly every day.
Chris, who went through a divorce several years ago, ended up in the homeless shelter at the corps. That’s where he got to know Patrick who eventually offered him a supervisor spot at the shelter. Chris did that job for two years.
Patrick said, “I wanted to make sure he knew that his church family here still cared about him and that we wanted him to be successful. Even though he was going through this, we were there for him.”
Patrick and his wife encouraged Chris to get back into the Word of God.
“I kind of got away from reading the Bible while I was in the hospital because I was kind of lying there and getting shots of morphine and whatever else,” Chris said. “In the beginning, I couldn’t think about it too much.
“It was kind of a down time. I just didn’t know what was going on. I started reading my Bible again and getting hints from my wife and Major Patrick on where to go with it. I started reading and it actually brought me and my wife a little closer. We started reading together online and working on our marriage.”
Chris said God showed him that “He can heal anything,” a testimony he hopes to share with others.
“I think I was becoming depressed—constantly, day by day. But He can get you better and your mind straight if you believe in Him,” Chris said. “You also have to have patience and believe that something good is going to happen.”
Chris said he also learned that “God knows what He’s doing.”
“I’ve had some health scares in the past,” Chris said. “I’ve had diabetes and I’ve had really bad infections. For the first time ever, I thought, This isn’t supposed to be the one. I’m supposed to go to the corps and start rebooting the whole thing. We’re supposed to be working on becoming officers.”
Today, the Corcorons have finished senior soldier classes, but their enrollment ceremony was cancelled because of COVID-19. Now they are applying to be Salvation Army officers. Patrick said, “Satan has thrown obstacles in their path every single time on their way to officership, but we believe the path will be cleared for them and we’re just praying for that to happen.”
Jenny believes it will happen, too, but in God’s time.
“It seems like every time we try to become officers, something happens, and we get attacked somehow,” Jenny said. “It seems like when we’re getting ready to actually get a step closer to what God has called us to do, we have all these setbacks and hurdles to jump over.
“I learned that God is definitely in control and He will make things right in His timing. We can’t push God’s timing. God knows the perfect timing for everything.”
by Robert Mitchell