Teacher Susan Craver continues COVID recovery: 'There's a reason I'm supposed to be here' – Daily News Journal

Susan Craver wants to return to the classroom.  
First, the Oakland High Spanish teacher must complete more therapy after surviving a dangerous journey with COVID-19.
Five months in four hospitals, including being in a coma on Christmas Day 2020 and New Year’s Day 2021.
Her life depending on a ventilator with a 15% chance of survival.
One hundred forty three days of hospital treatment.
Two surgeries on her elbows to relieve nerve damage.
While she’s still regaining her strength through therapy, Craver hopes to find a virtual teaching position or an education support job at Oakland High. And she hopes her improved health allows her husband, Greg Jones, to get back to work, and son, Daelin Franks, to get back to making As at Oakland High.
School board Chair Tiffany Johnson wants the district to help Craver find a position. The chairperson knows Craver from the teacher’s speeches with board members and one-on-one conversations in support of a mask requirement.
“She’s been in my prayers since,” Johnson said. “I’m happy to hear she’s doing better. If we can do anything to prevent that from happening to anybody else, I think we need to explore all those options to keep everybody safe and healthy.”
Craver and her husband were vaccinated for COVID-19 this year, and received booster shots just prior to Christmas.
During an interview near their Lebanon home, Craver reminded her husband a few times not to embrace her by the shoulder area that was sore from the shot.
Craver is participating in physical therapy and occupational therapy three days a week. She’s regained some functionality in her arms. 
“I can write,” said Craver, who has worked for 18 years as an educator with Rutherford County Schools. “It’s very slow and not great, but I can do it.”
She’s still waiting for nerves to regrow in her lower legs and feet.
‘A born teacher’: Oakland High’s Susan Craver plans return to classroom after COVID-19 recovery
Prior to her illness, Craver made more than 1,100 masks, tweaking a design she discovered online to make them more comfortable and fit properly to prevent them from fogging glasses.
She sent the masks to friends and others across the country, as well as Finland.
Then came the fall of 2020.
Her son was the first in the family to test positive for COVID-19. At the time, he would go unmasked to eat lunch at Oakland High, or play a clarinet and marimba for school band activities.
For the son the virus felt like a four-day case of the flu. His stepfather tested positive next. Jones had a fever for 24 hours and dealt with body aches for two or three days. 
Craver’s faced the most dire prognosis when she went to the hospital Dec. 6, 2020. 
Her oxygen level, checked by emergency room staff, was at 34%, “which should not be compatible with life,” Craver learned.
Greg Jones thought he was going to lose his wife during the 2020 Christmas holidays.
Just as troubling, Jones feared he would break a promise the couple previously made to each other: Hold one another if one of them was dying. 
He was not allowed in the hospital’s intensive care unit, near his Susan. 
An 18-year Tennessee resident from New Jersey, Jones insisted the hospital perform a magnetic resonance imaging test to measure Susan Craver’s brain activity before he’d give up hope in her survival. 
“They wanted to pull the plug on her,” Jones said.
Jones endured depression and anger while his wife was on a ventilator with a slim chance of survival. 
Craver learned about what her husband faced in dealing with medical professionals after recovering from her coma, with no memories of what happened. 
“He went Yankee on them,” she said.
Four months later, Jones held Craver while she was in recovery in a Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital bed in Nashville. 
“He put the rails up, and he squeezed himself down in there beside me and fell asleep,” Craver recalled. “He was so relaxed and happy to be with me.”
‘I might have to let her go’: Husband of Oakland High School teacher fighting COVID-19 shares journey
When Craver awoke from her coma, she couldn’t feel her legs from the knees down. The disability, however, didn’t stop her from using a wheelchair to attend meetings with Rutherford County Board of Education officials in August and September to speak in support of requiring masks.
“Like I told them, if wearing a mask can save one child from going through what I did, it’s worth it,” said Craver, who had to hold onto the lectern to keep her balance after rising from a wheelchair.
Craver recently has been able to walk again with the help of leg braces and a cane. She now can feel about 2 inches below her knees and hopes more of her nerves will regrow. 
She is one of 24,000 members of a COVID-19 Survivors support group on Facebook, serving as a moderator. Their ailments can range from nerve damage, shortness of breath, and lung and heart issues. 
They call them long haulers. Their journey to COVID-19 recovery is not just physical. 
“It’s emotional and mental,” Craver said. 
Craver is worried about replacing disability income and health care benefits that end Dec. 31. 
 So far, the cost of her treatment is more than $2.5 million — most bills were covered by insurance and government COVID-19 relief funds.
“I still need my health care benefits to continue my recovery,” Craver said.
Her husband also hopes to return to working as an heavy equipment operator after leaving his job to take care of his wife. 
“Now he feels it’s safe to leave me at home,” Craver said. 
Craver could accept a virtual teaching job or another school support position before she’s recovered enough to return to in-person instruction.  
A teacher needs to maneuver between classroom desks, step over backpacks, walk among students in the hallways and endure unforeseen physical challenges of the school day. 
“I’m a fall risk,” Craver said. “Mentally, I’m ready to be back. I want to be back. I’m bored at home.”
Craver said she hopes to return to in-person classroom teaching by August, but realistically may need more time.
Oakland High Principal John Marshall said Craver will always be welcome to return to the campus
“When and how she returns is something we’re working on with her, Oakland and the district,” Marshall said. “We’ve been amazed at her progress she’s made at this point. It’s a true blessing.”
Johnson, the school board chair, said she hopes Craver can return as soon as the teacher is ready.
“I look forward to seeing her return to our classrooms,” Johnson said.
Craver hopes her 17-year-old son, Daelin Franks, can be granted leniency on college scholarship requirements after his grade point average went from 3.5 at the end of his sophomore year to 2.5 by the end of his junior year during his mother’s treatment.
The son took on additional chores at home, including cooking dinner every night, keeping the house clean and getting the laundry done.
Franks continues to worry about his mother, such as walking close behind her while shopping to prevent her from falling.
“His grades suffered last year, but we’re working on it,” Craver said.
He did score a 29 on the ACT.
Franks plans to attend either Middle Tennessee State University or Western Kentucky University. 
Craver knows she’s more fortunate than others in being a long-haul survivor of COVID-19. Rutherford County Schools has had at least seven employees die from the virus in 2020 and  2021.
“There’s a reason I’m supposed to be here,” Craver said. “I’m meant to be here. There’s something unfinished. There’s something here I haven’t accomplished yet.”
That something includes returning to the classroom as a full-time teacher, “doing what I love,” Craver said.
“I am a teacher at heart,” Craver said. “My soul is in teaching. That’s where I want to be.”
Reach reporter Scott Broden through email, [email protected], or phone, 615-278-5158. Follow him on Twitter @ScottBroden.
Sources: Tennessee Department of Health, Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Census Bureau 

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Susan Craver wants to return to the classroom.  First, the Oakland High Spanish teacher must complete more therapy after surviving a dangerous journey with COVID-19.Five months in four hospitals, including being in a coma on Christmas Day 2020 and New Year’s Day 2021.Her life depending on a ventilator with a 15% chance of survival.One hundred forty three days of hospital treatment.Two…

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