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Andy Rieger

Davis Graves first thought his stomach pains came from a bad batch of dormitory food.

It was October 2020, and he had just started his freshman year as an architecture major at the University of Arkansas. The pains didn’t go away, so he drove himself back to his Norman home, with plans to return to the campus or wrestle with online classes like he did his senior year at Norman North.

His pains and fever persisted, so he began trips to the emergency room with his parents, Matt and Melanie Graves, and brother, Reid, at his side.

• • •

Then the 19-year-old’s symptoms grew worse, and he tested positive for COVID-19.

He was admitted the intensive care unit at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Doctors told his parents he was one of the first complicated COVID-19 cases in the state.

They found blood clots in his kidneys, spleen, heart and the artery serving his intestines. High fever. Cramps. A massive blood clot could break away and make a path to his brain, leading to a stroke.

“They called us and said he may not make it,” Melanie said. “He was the poster child for every worst thing that could happen. They kept finding more and more and more.”

• • •

All told, Davis spent about five months cumulative in the hospital, where he turned 20.

He was wheeled into the operating room about 20 times for intestinal surgeries. He came home Dec. 12, 2020, for the first time — all 104 pounds of him — to welcoming friends and neighbors.

He went back several times while waiting for his body to heal enough for the final surgery on Oct. 25, 2021. He came home Nov. 6 and is now recovering, reconnecting with friends and family and contemplating his future plans.

Doctors told the family it could take up to two years to make him whole again. They are all involved in his care, including Reid, a Norman North junior who, like his parents, has become proficient at wound care.

“I didn’t really know what was going on,” Davis said. “Part of it I don’t even remember. I remember going into surgery and waking up five days later.”

• • •

The family has been supported from the early days by neighbors and friends.

Meals were delivered on the doorstep. Prayers were offered from five states. The pool maintenance, Davis and Reid’s chore, got taken care of. Friends called and stopped by with small gifts or just to show support.

“It was shocking, really. We’re the helpers,” Matt said.

“We’re usually the ones doing the giving,” Melanie said. “It was uncomfortable, but at some point you have to say yes and accept people’s help.”

• • •

Thanksgiving was special for them this year.

It’s the first relatively normal holiday since their ordeal began more than a year ago. Davis can eat food that’s not delivered intravenously.

Besides each other, the family gives thanks for the doctors and nurses and everyone who stepped up and were willing to share their burden. Neighbors. Family. Co-workers. Strangers who prayed for Davis.

“It’s going to be a great ending to a horrific story that I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” Melanie said. “We’ve been very lucky. We’ll never look at things the same way. We’ll never take things for granted.”


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