“He’s a miracle!” 

74-year-old Ron Mann celebrates birthday after beating COVID-19

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Ron Mann on his front porch (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shugarts)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Tuesday was a birthday Ron Mann will never forget. It’s a miracle, according to his doctors, that he is able to celebrate his 74th birthday. Mann tested positive for COVID-19 on October 29 and after three months on a ventilator, four months in the hospital and one month in rehabilitation, he is now home and getting stronger day by day.  

Mann, a lifelong member of Cullman’s First United Methodist Church, was surprised Tuesday evening as family and friends made their way from the church to his home a block away. They carried signs, cards, balloons and gifts to give to the man they all prayed for and loved. The show of love and support moved Mann to tears as he sat on his porch and waved.  

Tuesday was the first time he had seen many of his closest friends since October and although he knew their prayers and encouragement played a major role in his surviving COVID, he was finally able to witness it. Mann’s daughter Jennifer Shugarts said, “He is not an emotional person and I have only seen him cry a few times in my life. I think that meant so much to him and he was very surprised.”  

Shugarts spoke about her father’s journey. She explained, “He got COVID at the end of October and he was on a ventilator for three months. Really, with all the complications that he had, his doctors had prepared us that he probably wouldn’t make it, or his quality of life would be really bad.”  

At one point, Mann was on complete dialysis that was believed to be permanent. “It was like a roller coaster–up and down, up and down,” Shugarts recalled. Mann showed grit and determination to get better and eventually, after four months in the hospital, was moved to rehab.  

He was able to come home on April 9 after 158 days of being in the hospital and rehab. “He has home health that comes and some physical therapy that comes, and then lots of family support,” Shugarts said.  

Now, Mann has received both of his COVID vaccinations and Saturday will mark two weeks since his second. Adhering to the recommendation of waiting two weeks, Mann continues to stay home at a safe distance from those who visit. Shugarts said, “He really can’t afford to get anything, not just COVID, but anything. He is just incredibly weak but getting stronger every day. Mentally, he is completely himself, it just took so much out of him physically.” 

The family is grateful to the many friends, other family members and church members who have created a loving support system for Mann and his wife. Tears filled his eyes when he was surprised Tuesday and Shugarts explained, “It was a happy cry. Very happy tears.”  

She continued, “I think there’s been a few times during this when reality has hit him, and he has been a little down. It has been very uplifting for him to know that so many people have been praying for him and encouraging him. We’ve been telling him that, but I don’t think he really understood how many, like we were telling him that everybody was encouraging, praying and asking, but until he saw it for himself, I don’t think he realized that so many people cared about him.”  

Mann has worked for Edward Jones for many years and several of his clients joined those wishing him a happy birthday. Shugarts said that Mann hopes to return to work soon even if it’s just for a few hours a week. “He’s determined, so he’s pretty determined he is going to beat this. That’s what he says,” Shugart said.  

“He’s a miracle! He’s just a miracle! There were so many doctors that looked at us and said they really couldn’t explain it because after everything he has been through, he really shouldn’t be here. It’s remarkable for sure.” She added, “He was in the Marines and I think that background of just determination has always been a part of who he is and how he raised us.”  

Friends and family gather to wish Ron a happy birthday Tuesday (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com