A family practitioner in Georgia died of COVID-19 after risking exposure to help a sickly cancer patient to their car.      

Dr. John D. Marshall Jr. spent 111 days on a ventilator while being treated for the novel coronavirus at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. 

But on Wednesday, the 74-year-old became the first practicing Georgia physician to be killed by COVID-19.  

‘He served up until the time he could not,’ Charles ‘Yahvo’ Marshall, the physician’s brother, told Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Marshall, of Americus, had been a devoted and beloved family-physician of three decades when he contracted the virus. 

Dr. John D. Marshall Jr (pictured) , of Americus, died of COVID-19 on Wednesday after contracting the virus in March 

After completing an exam with an elderly cancer patient, Marshall decided to help the frail man to his car.

It was this one small act of kindness that led to Marshall contracting the virus, his family said.

Marshall first fell ill in March before widespread mitigation efforts like face masks, social distancing and other measures were suggested.

After learning that his patient tested positive for COVID-19, Marshall underwent a test and self-quarantined inside his home alone.

By the time his test results came back, Marshall had a fever and diarrhea. He tried to manage the illness himself, but continued to get sicker as days passed. 

‘He was the type of person who would take care of himself and take care of others, as well,’ his niece, Leslie Marshall, told AJC.

Leslie and her brother went to visit their uncle at his home on April 6. 

By that time, Marshall had become physically weak and had trouble breathing.

The family retrieved an oxygen tank for Marshall from his office to help his breathing, but took him to a local hospital when it ran out.

The family said Marshall (pictured) contracted COVID-19 after helping an elderly and frail cancer patient to their vehicle 

Like so many other medical centers across America, the local hospital in Americus was inundated with COVID-19 patients and couldn’t treat him.

Instead, Marshall was transferred to the facility in Savannah, where doctors placed him on a ventilator on the first day and later admitted him to long-term care.

‘He coded a couple of times,’ said Leslie, adding that the family decided to approve instructions to not resuscitate Marshall.   

Doctors had told the family that as long as Marshall lived, he would need dialysis and a ventilator. 

After more than 100 days on a ventilator, Marshall’s family took him off of life support. He died shortly after. 

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

Marshall (left and right) was transferred to the Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and was placed on a ventilator the same day

He is one of at least 97 Georgia health care workers who have died from the virus so far. Across the country, the number of fatalities among the medical field surpassed 600.  

Marshall’s death draws attention to the daily risks taken by medical staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As cases spike in the United States, doctors have been forced to balance personal safety with doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.  

In Sumter County, where Marshall lived, there have been 768 confirmed infections and 56 deaths out of 29,399 residents.

Within the last two weeks, Sumter County has seen 78 new cases and 175 hospitalizations. The numbers in Sumter County are higher than nearly all of its immediate neighbors. 

Across Georgia, there are more than 212,00 cases and 4,400 deaths.   

Marshall’s life was one of accomplishment and character that affected people of all walks of life. 

He was an Air Force veteran, the former president of the NAACP chapter in Americus, and the publisher of a monthly newspaper, the Americus Sumter Observer, which reports on the Black American community in the city.

Officials with the NAACP urged people to not only remember the good Marshall did for the Americus community, but also the Black community.

‘Dr. Marshall championed black causes, not only for Sumter County but for this region,’ NAACP Vice President Eugene Edge told WALB News 10.

‘He spoke on freedom of justice and equality not just for black people but for all of those who are disenfranchised in the community.’

Marshall (pictured) was a former NAACP president for the Americus-Sumter County chapter 

Edge added that one of Marshall’s biggest accomplishments was pushing back against the Sumter County School Board over recent redistricting. 

While practicing in the Great Plains during the 1980s, Marshall performed a physical exam on former President Jimmy Carter.

He continued to work at a full-time medical practice even after he surpassed retirement age.

Hours after Marshall died, mourners gathered outside the Americus-Sumter County Chapter of the NAACP headquarters to pay tribute. 

‘He was one of the greatest doctors in Americus, certainly, and a great citizen,’ said Bishop Melvin McCuster, a longtime patient of Marshall’s and senior pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.  

‘It’s a great loss to the community.’ 

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