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A Capital City COVID Chronicle: Tony Hartley

Three men standing together in front of a store front. The awning reads 'marpan.'
DAVE BARFIELD and LONELY FOX
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Used with permission.
Tony Hartley, flanked by Kim Williams on the left and Andrew Williams on the right.

The disease was no match for a fierce determination to survive, coupled with constant support from family and employer.

The COVID pandemic has changed—and even ended—the lives of many millions of people. WFSU is taking a look at what it's meant for some Capital City residents. This is the first of two stories on that subject.

Tony Hartley is a hard-working guy. He just celebrated twenty years at Marpan, the big recycling complex just off Woodville Highway south of Tallahassee. For Hartley, this past year is one that he'll always remember. And not necessarily in a good way.

"Somewhere around July 25, I wound up with COVID and we'd had a few people test positive and went home and spent their 2 weeks quarantined at the house, watching TV or fishing or whatever they wanted to do."

But that was not to be Hartley's experience. At home, his condition kept deteriorating and breathing was becoming a real struggle. In desperation, Hartley's wife called his boss, Marpan owner Kim Williams, who vividly remembered that conversation.

"And I said, 'Hand him the phone,' and she handed him the phone and I said, 'Tony, there's an ambulance coming to pick you up and they're going to take you to the hospital where you'll have oxygen from the moment you arrive!' And he said, 'Yessir.'"

Hartley recalled the staff at Tallahassee Memorial took his case very seriously upon his arrival. Particularly when they saw his blood oxygen level, which is supposed to be in the mid-to-upper 90s.

"I was down in the 70s. And they were trying to get my oxygen up and all of a sudden they rushed me up to the ICU part of COVID, and that's where I spent over 20 days waiting to get over it. Which was rough. I don't recommend nobody wanting it."

Tallahassee Memorial's Jaclynn Moss was the manager for the nursing unit taking care of Hartley and the hospital's other COVID casualties.

"He was actually one of the ones we did not think would have such a good outcome and go home the way he did. I think he was here 45 or 47 days. He was very, very, VERY sick!"

How did Tony Hartley manage to beat the odds and survive? Nurse Moss has a theory.

"I believe with all my heart that if it wasn't his mindset, he would not have been able to go home to his family."

Which is where Hartley is today. Although he admits the effect of the disease still lingers.

"I stay short-winded and I give out real easy. I still have some fatigue. But Kim and them were wonderful. He and Andrew kept up with me and my wife. I never missed a paycheck."

Kim Williams said he and his son Andrew, Marpan's vice president, believe this kind of consideration for a co-worker in need is simply the way things ought to be.

"A lot of people didn't get real sick, but the ones that did have a long recovery rate in most instances and they need our prayers. We just need to do what we can. That's all you can do."

Which, he said, makes the story of Tony Hartley even more remarkable.

"As you know, he's back at work and he told me today that the doctor told him that his lung capacity has improved to what it was before the COVID incident. He's a miracle guy!"

Our next COVID chronicle will focus on a Tallahassee nurse who was on the front lines of fighting the disease — until it targeted her as well.