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Firefighter recovering from COVID-19 after spending 40 days in ICU


SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (WNCN) — A Moore County firefighter spent more than 40 days in the ICU battling COVID-19. John Wilson’s condition continues to improve, and the community is stepping up to help.

At 6’3” and 240 pounds John Wilson is a big guy. Hence people in Southern Pines affectionately call him ‘Big John’.

Photos show the Southern Pines firefighter leaving the ICU. His 40-day stint in there left him 45 pounds lighter and weaker. But his second family realizes just how lucky he is.

John Wilson

“You couldn’t get in to see him. You couldn’t talk with him. So his wife was getting in and sends us text messages at least two a day. Kind of give us an update… You didn’t know how he was going to come out of this,” Chief Mike Cameron with the Southern Pines Fire Department said.

Chief Cameron said Big John tested positive for COVID-19 back on Jan. 7. He was taken to the hospital six days later. The department had had other cases, but no one had been this sick.

“We’re pretty close. We know each other really well; we know each other’s families. That’s a big hit when someone you work with day in, and day out goes into the hospital straight to ICU,” he said.

Big John is a fixture in this community.

“You can’t go anywhere that someone doesn’t that he doesn’t know someone. Almost everyone knows him,” Chief Cameron explained.

And so it was no surprise Thursday when hundreds turned out for a cookout to raise money for him to pay his medical bills.

“They sold over 1900 plates and just got donation after donation… It is heartwarming, touching all of those kinds of things… You can’t put words on how much that means to us as well as our community,” he said.

Organizers estimate that cookout raised about $20,000.

No word yet on when Big John will be able to leave the hospital.

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