Ellis calls recovery 'a miracle'
After having been at death’s door twice in recent months, Phillip Ellis said he has experienced a “rebirth.”
Ellis, the principal at W.S. Neal High School, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last year and has battled against the disease since then, facing death twice in recent months.
But Ellis said his goal of going home is finally within reach. “I’ve fought and fought to get back to where I am. I’m gonna make myself ready to go home.”
A long winter
Ellis was scheduled for a bone marrow transplant in January, but that possibility of treatment was dashed when he became deathly ill.
Saundra Ellis recounted her husband’s close encounter with death that required him to be taken by Lifeflight to UAB Medical Center in Birmingham.
But no beds were available at UAB.
Once Ellis arrived in Birmingham, doctors began quickly searching for a treatment that would save his life.
Doctors at UAB began working with Ellis but were not having success in treating the illness that came so suddenly, Saundra said.
Saundra said doctors had given her a 24-hour window to hope for some signs of improvement.
What they tried began to work, and Ellis gradually regained a sense of where he was and what was happening to him.
Although the recovery to this point has taken three months to reach, Saundra said her husband’s health has already improved beyond what doctors has originally predicted.
The road home
Having reached a critical point in his recovery, Ellis was released from UAB Medical Center and transferred to the West Florida Regional Rehabilitative Institute in Pensacola.
The trip from Birmingham to Pensacola was a long, bumpy ride, and Ellis took the opportunity on the drive to coerce the driver into making a pit stop — at just the place he had been missing for months.
Ellis said after convincing the driver of the transfer vehicle to make the stop at the school, he called the office when they were just two blocks away to let them know he was going to be on campus.
Now working hard at rehab, Ellis said he is gaining weight and enjoying being able to eat solid foods again.
The months Ellis spent immobilized in a hospital bed has resulted in a need to learn to walk and perform other simple tasks, Saundra said.
Her husband’s recovery has been a trying time for the family that has filled many hours with prayer — but Saundra said their spirits have also been buoyed by the prayers of people across the community and beyond.
Saundra, who is principal at Brewton Elementary School, credits a portion of her strength to the support of faculty and staff at her school. “The faculty and staff at my school have been so supportive during this time,” Saundra said. “I don’t think I could have made it without their support. Deborah Marriott, who was principal before I took the job, has stepped in and helped when I couldn’t be at the school. Having that kind of support is unbelievable.”
Both Ellises said support from church family has also been a comfort during the three months of illness, most of which has been spent at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham.
Ellis said his recovery from the brink of death has been a slow one that is progressing each day.
Ellis said he believes prayer has made all the difference.