Memphis pastor encourages vaccination after long battle with COVID

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was a busy morning for Christ Missionary Baptist Church members as they worked to get people vaccinated during their second vaccination pop-up event Friday.

“We just want to do our part to help in keeping our community safe,” said pastor Reverend Dr. Chuck Lester.

He and his wife Deneen overlooked the site to make sure things were running smoothly as those 16 and older came to get their vaccine. To some, Lester may look a little familiar. Well, that’s because WREG first introduced you to him last year.

“I just want to say one thing,” he said. “Somebody prayed for me, had me on their mind.”

Lester, who is also known as “Champion Chuck” by fellow church members, is a COVID-19 survivor.

Our cameras were there when he was released from the hospital — embraced by his church family — after a 68-day stay. Approximately 42 of those days were spent on a ventilator.

Even though he was allowed to go home, he said his fight with COVID was far from over.

 Shortly after we did our interview, the pastor had a bacterial infection which caused more problems.

“It destroyed my aortic valve. I had to go back and have open heart surgery and spend another 32 days in the hospital,” he said.

He spent a total of 100 days in the hospital and still has scheduled therapy and rehab treatments he attends. He hopes sharing his story will encourage others to continue doing what they have to do to in order to stay safe.

“It is real. It is real. When you wake up after 42 days on a ventilator and you don’t know where you are, that’s real,” he said.

Shelby County health officials said the county is doing well with its efforts to reach its goal of getting 700,000 people vaccinated. However, the public is still encouraged to take precautions as restrictions are lifted.

“I understand what the government is trying to do, but also we have to keep our people safe. I am concerned,” he said.

He said he and the rest of his church family will continue to lead by example as the fight against Covid-19 rages on.

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