A small army of Jeff Davis Countians welcomed home one of their most beloved last Friday as Jeff Davis High School Principal Greer Smith returned to Hazlehurst after almost a month of hospital care battling a deadly COVID-19 virus infection.
Smith’s battle was literally a brush with death. His journey began with a visit to Jeff Davis Hospital where Dr. Jason Laney spent four days treating him, including intubating him before it became apparent he needed more intense treatment. Laney was able to get him transferred to Northside Hospital Healthcare System in the Atlanta area where his condition was stabilized after severe complications had endangered his life.
Smith’s treatment at Northside, under the care of Dr. Allison Dupont, included a tracheotomy and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) treatment, a process similar to a heart-lung by-pass machine used in open-heart surgery, wherein the patient’s blood is pumped and oxygenated outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.
His recovery was slow but once it appeared his condition was improving, that improvement progressed steadily until he was finally approved to return to his home in the Lake Owlhead community.
With his father-in-law Jimmy Kerns behind the wheel on his drive into Hazlehurst and Greer’s wife Stephanie along for the ride, a law enforcement escort ushered Smith into Jeff Davis County amid sirens and flashing blue lights, forming a motorcade to the Jeff Davis High School football field where practice was interrupted to allow players and coaches to gleefully welcome Smith home.
Well-wishers, many carrying welcome home signs, were gathered along the route and back to the Smith home where he was reunited with his two children, his parents and family, and a host of friends and well-wishers.
While he is still in recovery, it appears it is just a matter of time before he returns to his work at the high school where a throng of students and staff have been collectively sighing a huge breath of relief.