Doctor in South Georgia dies from COVID-19

“He served up until the time he could not,” Charles “Yahvo” Marshall, the doctor’s brother, said in an interview Thursday.

The death emphasizes the risks that medical professionals face from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed at least 97 Georgia health care workers. Marshall became ill in late March, before social distancing, facial masks and other precautions were in widespread use.

When Marshall learned his patient had tested positive for the virus, he had himself tested, too, then self-quarantined alone at home in Americus. By the time his test came back positive, his brother said, Marshall had a fever and diarrhea. He got progressively sicker, but tried to manage his illness on his own.

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“He was the type of person who would take care of himself and take care of others, as well,” said his niece, Leslie Marshall.

She and her brother went to their uncle’s house on April 6. They found him weak, his breathing labored. They retrieved an oxygen tank from Marshall’s office and stabilized his breathing. But when the oxygen ran out, Marshall agreed to go to a hospital.

Because the local hospital was over capacity with COVID-19 patients, Marshall was transferred to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah on April 13. The same day, doctors placed him on a ventilator. Eventually they sent him to an acute long-term care facility.

“He served up until the time he could not.”

– Charles “Yahvo” Marshall, the doctor’s brothe

“He coded a couple of times,” Leslie Marshall said, and the family finally decided to sign papers instructing that he not be resuscitated. Doctors had told them that however long Marshall lived, he would require ventilation and dialysis.

On Wednesday, the 111th day since he was ventilated, Marshall’s family took him off life support. He died minutes later.

“It was like he just said, ‘No, the fight is over,‘” Leslie Marshall said. “He had been fighting all his life.”

Hours later, mourners held a vigil outside the headquarters of the Americus-Sumter County Chapter of the NAACP. Friends praised his dual commitments to medicine and civil rights.

“He was one of the greatest doctors in Americus, certainly, and a great citizen,” Bishop Melvin McCuster, senior pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and a longtime patient of Marshall’s, said in an interview. “It’s a great loss to the community.”

Staff writer Ariel Hart contributed to this article.

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