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Arkansas teacher battles COVID-19 from hospital bed miles away from home

59-year-old Cynthia McCustion spent 17 days on a ventilator in Jackson, Tennessee while her worried family was back home in Blytheville.

BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. — A Blytheville teenager is beginning to experience all the things you do as a senior in high school, but she's been having to do it without her mom.

Bailee McCustion's mom, Cynthia McCustion, is battling COVID-19 from a hospital bed miles away.

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"She's waited so long for this time for me and I know she's so proud and I just can't wait to share that with her," she said.

Bailee's whole world changed on Dec. 21.

"She was just laying there with her eyes closed and I was like, 'Mom, are you okay?'" she said.

The 17-year-old dialed 9-1-1 after she heard her mom gasping for air in the other room.

"When the paramedics got here they checked her oxygen level and it was at 37," she said.

Exactly one week before that, her mother, Cynthia, was diagnosed with bronchitis and a severe sinus infection, but when she arrived at the hospital on Dec. 21, that diagnosis had turned into COVID-19. 

Bailee said her mother was only there for a short four hours before she was air lifted to a hospital in Jackson, Tennessee since no beds were available.

"She just wasn't there, she was fully sedated. She was just not good and we were worried, like extremely worried," she said.

The 59-year-old spent the next 17 days breathing through a ventilator, her progress fluctuating, while her husband and daughter were miles away.

"On the seventh day that she was there, they had to turn the ventilator all the way back up. It was like she took a turn for the worse," Bailee said.

But her mom, a literacy instructional facilitator at Blytheville Elementary, still had some fight left in her. 

On Thursday, Jan. 7, Bailee got the call that her mom was finally taken off the ventilator and breathing on her own.

"God's a miracle worker and I know the more prayers we get, it'll be much worth it," she said.

Bailee described how faith and community helped her stay strong and the high school senior hopes her mom's story can change some people's minds. 

"It is real and we don't want you or your family to go through what we have gone through," she said.

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Bailee and her father were both diagnosed with COVID-19 after Cynthia got the positive test results, but they are recovering. 

Bailee said her mom is projected to leave the hospital on Tuesday, Jan. 12, but it all depends on how the next few days go.