Bulletin reporter recovering after medical emergency
Published 12:10 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2022
GoFundMe set up to help with expenses
If you’ve been a subscriber at any point over the last two decades, you have more than likely noticed that the byline of long-time reporter Leah Justice has been missing since February.
At the end of January, Leah caught Covid-19, despite faithfully staying isolated as much as possible, and despite being fully vaccinated.
On Friday, January 28 she worked all day and felt fine. But by the evening she started to feel bad, and overnight started vomiting. By Saturday afternoon, she couldn’t catch her breath. Her parents and brother took her to St. Luke’s Hospital, where they realized she was experiencing blood clots. She was immediately transferred via helicopter to Charlotte.
“That ride was $165,000, and I don’t even remember it!” she said.
Leah was put on a ventilator, and she underwent two surgeries for blood clots. She remained in Charlotte for 10 days.
“Covid,” she said, “is no joke.”
“Long story short, I’m apparently one of few diabetics to make it off the vent, should have had a stroke during one of the surgeries and didn’t,” she said.
She is home now, but her recovery will be long term.
Her left arm experienced the full ravages of the blood clots, and at first the doctors thought she would need her whole left arm amputated. But since returning home, she started receiving hand therapy at St. Luke’s twice a week. She is scheduled for an amputation of three fingers in April.
Leah knew that her pre-existing conditions of diabetes and complications from a car accident in 1998 meant that she had to be extra careful through the pandemic.
“The diabetes didn’t help matters but it was the no spleen that really got me,” she said of the organ — an important part of the immune system – that she lost after the accident. “If I hadn’t had the vaccines and the booster, I’d be dead.”
Through the hospitalization, the difficulty using her arm, wrist and hand, and the weakness that accompanies recovery from Covid, she said her family and friends have been wonderful and supportive.
“I haven’t cooked a meal since January 27. I have an incredible friend who is doing my laundry, washing dishes, giving me baths, whatever I need. My parents, brother and sister have been amazing. Friends have cooked for me, taken me to appointments, taken care of Luke. My ex-husband Charlie has been amazing. I’m just overwhelmed with all the love and support,” she wrote to friends recently on Facebook.
Anyone who has met Leah, however, knows that not being able to work, at the job she’s held for nearly 22 years, has been challenging and frustrating.
“It’s killing me, but it’s just not possible with the weakness and pain. And you would be amazed how many tasks take two hands,” she said.
“The paper isn’t the same without her regular presence on the front page,” said Jeff Allison, the Bulletin’s operations manager. “But we know how determined she is, and she’ll be back. We wish her a speedy recovery and we’re with her all the way.”
Since her recovery will likely stretch some months, a friend has set up a GoFundMe account to help Leah, who has exhausted all her vacation time, sick time, and savings, to cover her rising medical bills, day-to-day living expenses, travel funds to see specialists in Charlotte, and more.
Tracey Mason Daniels said that one thing Leah needs that is unique to her situation is a new blood sugar monitor machine that will allow her to test herself using only one hand. The machine costs $5,000.
On GoFundMe.com, search “Leah Justice Emergency Funds” for more information about Leah’s medical situation and to make a donation.
Leah said she is thankful to be alive, and thankful for all the people who have helped her.
“I just want to thank everyone for their prayers and willingness to help,” she said. “I’m stubborn and as much as I’d like to get through this on my own, it’s just not possible. So, thank you all. I appreciate every little or big thing that’s being done.”