Tucson couple grateful for their lives together after harrowing year

Phylicia and Kevin Ross don’t need the holidays to remind them of all they have: Gratitude has been continuous since a year ago, when Kevin almost died of coronavirus, and their son’s delivery became an emergency because of that same disease.

After months in the hospital and rehab last fall, Kevin Ross returned home just in time for Thanksgiving. Since then, the challenges have continued, but he is persevering, and looking forward to hosting the meal this year with extended family, along with his wife and sons Nicholas, 4, and Tommy, 1.

The couple became sick in August 2021 when Phylicia Ross had one month to go before son Tommy’s due date. Kevin Ross had just finished a Strongman competition and placed first.

As healthy people in their early 30s, neither thought they were candidates for severe cases of COVID-19. Phylicia Ross said they decided to wait on vaccines until after the baby was born.

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Phylicia Ross became sick first, and the baby was taken early to help her breathe. “My oxygen levels were in the low 70s,” she said of that time.

Baby Tommy was in neonatal intensive care for three weeks but is fine now. He didn’t contract coronavirus, his mother said, but hospital staff wanted to watch him closely, and also make sure he was eating well.

“He’s never missed a meal since,” Phylicia Ross said, laughing about her 27-pound toddler.

Kevin was in the hospital for nearly six weeks, she said. He went into cardiac arrest twice, and spent about eight minutes without oxygen before they were able to revive him.

At that point, doctors thought Kevin Ross was not going to survive, and family were called in to say goodbye. Phylicia said she kept thinking about the baby, and how his father hadn’t even seen him yet.

They were told it was a matter of time before he died, she recalled, hours if they were lucky. But, for reasons Phylicia Ross said remain a wonderful mystery, her husband made it.



Severe COVID-19 survivor Kevin Ross and his wife, Phylicia, hold hands during a small ceremony recognizing his recovery and the medical staff that saved his life at Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson.



“He’s one of those really unbelievable cases,” said Dr. Nader Tashtoush, who is the system medical director for critical care medicine for both St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s hospitals. “It’s one of the most remarkable stories we have for this year.”

Tashtoush said that after they were able to get Ross’ heart beating again, he was only taking in about 30-40% of the oxygen his body needs for almost an hour.

That’s when serious problems with the brain and the organs can arise, Tashtoush said. The medical staff kept pressing forward, he said, thinking of a young man with a new baby and a young son, a person they knew was far too young to die.

Seeing him recover has been wonderful, Tashtoush said.

“We’re all really excited to see him rejoined with his family, playing with his sons,” he said. “We knew we needed to do the extra mile.”

The medical challenges have continued, mostly because of the time he was without oxygen. He has chronic kidney and heart problems now, brain damage to his frontal lobe, and short-term memory loss. His speech is off, she said, slurred and slow.

He had to wear a defibrillator for four months and, Phylicia Ross said, takes medication now to keep his heart beating at about 50 percent of its normal function.

There are also financial challenges: Kevin Ross hasn’t been able to work since he got sick, and they have been waiting for months on disability benefits.

But this couple — married seven years in January and together since Sabino High School — said the challenges aren’t deterring them:

“It goes up and down,” Kevin Ross said. “It sucks that I can’t do a lot of things, that’s true, but I’m getting better.”

Is he optimistic his health will continue to improve? “Definitely.”

Photos: A Year of the Pandemic in Tucson

Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Pop Cycle, 422 N 4th Ave. March 20, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Roxanne Lee, manager of the Tucson Medical Center cath lab, stands with nurses and other colleagues in Lifegain Park during a memorial ceremony to remember those who have died of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), on Jan. 19, 2021.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Most of the students are learning remotely (screen at the back of the room) in Alyssa Keri’s math class at Catalina Foothills High School in the Catalina Foothills School District, Tucson, on Feb. 4, 2021.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Costco shoppers line up early at the Tucson Marketplace at The Bridges in Tucson on March 14, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Volunteer Bill Rauch loads food supplies into the trunk of a car at the Community Food Bank at 3003 S. Country Club Road, on March 18, 2020. The food bank started a drive through pick up service to allow for social distancing in response to Coronavirus disease (COVID-19.)



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A pedestrian walks by the shuttered doors and windows of the Surly Wench Pub, the day after the city’s drinking establishments were shut down due to COVID-19 distancing measures, March 18, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Victor Sanchez, a cook at Robert’s Restaurant, holds a sign up to let to let passing drivers know they are still open at 3301 E Grant Road, on March 19, 2020. Restaurants and other small businesses are taking huge losses as people self quarantine and self distance to diminish the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19.)



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Banner UMC’s drive up system is for emergency room triage for a variety of illnesses and is not for random testing for COVID-19. It has been put in place to keep crowds from the ER and protect the health of patients and staff.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A line grows outside the doors to Trader Joe’s at Swan and Grant as an employee limits customers entering the store to one-out one-in, March 20, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A group of friends from St. Louis enjoy their lunch along Sentinel Peak after a 40-mile bike ride on March 20, 2020. The cycling friends planned their trip to Tucson months ago and decided to keep their vacation plans. They arrived on March 1st and leave this weekend. For the past three weeks they’ve been cycling through Saguaro National Park, up Mt. Lemmon, Kitt Peak and The Loop. On Friday they got takeout from Seis Kitchen and their bicycle touring company set up tables and chairs for them. They felt they self-quaratined with just the six of them during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Madelyn Hardy takes a phone-in order behind the locked doors at Renee’s Organic Oven, March 20, 2020, Tucson, Ariz. The restaurant is now taking no cash, doesn’t allow customers into the building and leaves bagged orders on an outside table for diners to pick up.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A largely closed and nearly empty Park Place Mall early in the afternoon following COVID-19 restrictions, March 20, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Sarah Lang views responses from her fifth-grade students while teaching remotely on Google classroom at Centennial Elementary School in the Flowing Wells School District, Tucson, on March 20, 2020, after the shutdown of schools due to the pandemic.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Marina Cornelius, owner of Floor Polish Dance + Fitness, teaches her Cardio Party-o class via Periscope to her students on March 20, 2020. Cornelius says this is the first time she’s trying to livestream classes and is learning as she goes.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Jo Schneider stands in the empty outdoor seating area of La Cocina located at 201 N. Court Avenue, on March 26, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A woman walks along a nearly empty street in downtown Nogales, Arizona, on March 24, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Dana Reed-Kane, co-owner of Reed’s Compounding Pharmacy, 2729 E Speedway Blvd., pours a finished batch of hand sanitizer into a bottle at her store on March 27, 2020. Kane is making gallons of hand sanitizer and selling it to the public each day as part of a movement among such pharmacies to help out with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Michelle Don Carlos, founder of Mending Souls, sews masks in her home on Tucson’s west side, on March 25, 2020. She and other volunteers are producing masks for emergency responders using anti-viral fabric donated by local hospitals.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Vanessa Richards, 18, left, and Ella Dotson, 17, take a selfie as their friend, Camilla Hamilton, 17, gets her photo taken by Vanessa’s mother, Chrissi, along Scott Ave. in downtown Tucson on March 31, 2020. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic the rest of the schoolyear has been canceled. Richards, Dotson and Hamilton are seniors at Marana High School and will not have a formal graduation ceremony. The trio came to downtown to get photos of themselves in their caps and gowns.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A dinosaur statue over the doors of MATS Dojo at 5929 E. 22nd St., sports an athletic cup for a face mask in the second week of COVID-19 restrictions, March 31, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Raj Paudel hands a bag of food to a customer at Govinda’s to-go-tent located at 711 E. Blacklidge Drive, on April 1, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Angel Perez and Dan Hawk perform from Perez’s balcony, giving the neighborhood a COVID-19-isolation style concert from his balcony, April 1, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Tessa DeConcini, senior at University High School, poses for a portrait with her prom dress and graduation cap at University High School, 421 N. Arcadia Ave., in Tucson, Ariz., on April 1, 2020. DeConcini, along with many other high school students, will miss out on prom festivities as well as their graduation ceremony due Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Dr. Liz Almil chats with one of her group from afar as members of the Tucson Cancer Conquerors distribute exercise gear, apparel, citrus and coffee during a handout at Brandy Fenton Park, April 11, 2020, Tucson, Ariz. The group is trying to find ways to keep their members exercising despite being forced into isolation by COVID-19 restrictions.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Rachel Huante greets her son Zeddicus Atherton as he trots out the door ahead of Lanee Pender carrying his sister Xena Atherton, part of the the new procedure of no parents inside the building at Kids First Preschool, April 15, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Cheri Carr grimaces as she receives a nasal swab while getting tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a drive-thru testing site at Escalera Health & Wellness, 2224 N. Craycroft Rd., on April 17, 2020. Patients can receive a COVID-19 and an antibody test.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Dalia Meshirer waves to a friend as the Golder Ranch Fire District trucks begin to roll by as dozens drive by her home to wish her a happy eighth birthday, April 2, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A sign strapped to the median at 6th Street and Campbell Avenue gives southbound motorists a little pep-talk in the COVID-19 times, April 23, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Kitchen manger Koa Hoffmann tosses dough while working up a crust for a call-in order as he and few others keep cooking at Bear Canyon Pizza despite COVID-19 restrictions, April 22, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Jesse James Tucker, owner and trainer at Tucson Rising Phoenix Fitness and Defense, records a video response on techniques for one of his members outside his home in Tucson, Ariz., on April 14, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Kyria Sabin Waugaman, right, pilates instructor at Body Works in Tucson, and one of her teachers, Alessangra Lima, host an online workout class at Body Works, 1980 E. River Rd., in Tucson, Ariz., on April 17, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Homer Cass, left, talks to his son, Richard, middle, and grandson, Jason, 22, through a window at Tucson Medical Center on April 27, 2020. The hospital is making adjustments during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to now allow visitors. Upon entry everyone’s temperature is taken and then friends and family members can use their cell phones to talk to their loved ones through a window for 15 minutes.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Emily Wolfgang, manager at Little Anthony’s Diner, talks with a customer during the first day of Little Anthony’s Diner Carhop at Little Anthony’s Diner, 7010 E. Broadway Blvd., in Tucson, Ariz., on April 28, 2020. Little Anthony’s Diner, in response to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), started an old fashioned 1950’s carhop. “It’s been a long time since we had a carhop,” said Tony Terry, president and owner of Little Anthony’s Diner and The Gaslight Theater. “It fits our life right not.” Little Anthony’s Diner Carhop runs from 11am to 8pm Monday through Sunday. Customers can park in designated parking spots and order and pay for their food from the safety of their car, said Terry. Employees, dressed in 1950’s attire with masks and gloves, will come out to check on customers and deliver drinks and food on trays, which resemble trays used in the 1950’s that can attach to car windows. There is a Carhop menu, which include burgers, salads and shakes, but customers can order other items off the menu. DJ Phil, Little Anthony’s Diner DJ, will play music that can be heard though speakers outside. “We may keep it after the virus,” added Terry.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Alex Swain, a member of Beloved in the Desert – Tucson’s chapter of the Episcopal Service Corps, carries bags of groceries to the home of an elderly man, on April 3, 2020. Swain and his housemates have volunteered to shop for elderly and at risk populations as people quarantine and stay at home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Mike Pfander, left, and his wife Jeanne talk with Mike’s mother Margaret Pfander from the service driveway just outside Margaret’s apartment in Villa Hermosa, April 25, 2020, Tucson, Ariz. With the COVID19 lockdowns relatives have to meet without breaking isolation protocols, through windows or over walls.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Ralph Acosta, valedictorian of the Amphitheater High School senior class, is greeted at his home near 22nd Street and 12th Avenue by principal Jon Lansa in Tucson on May 1, 2020. Acosta will speak during Amphi’s video graduation ceremony.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Detective Mary Pekas and Lt. Michelle Pickrom carry trays of food as they deliver meals with Mobile Meals of Southern Arizona, on April 29, 2020. Police officers with Tucson Police Department are volunteering while off duty with the program to allow for elderly volunteers to stay at home during the epidemic.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Stylist Rahnay Curtis, left, and owner Jennifer Ball at CDO Barbershop on May 8, 2020, in Tucson.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A nurse sporting a “Save Lives” mask takes part in a car procession honk-a-thon driving by Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital after departing from the Safeway across the street, on Jan. 12, 2021.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Tucson Fire paramedics roll a gurney through a tent setup outside the Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital’s emergency room, on April 14, 2020. The tents are used to screen staff and patients for potential Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before entering the hospital.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Catalina Foothills High School graduates throw their hats in the air as they are videoed on the stage on the football field at Catalina Foothills High School, 4300 E. Sunrise Dr., in Tucson, Ariz., on May 11, 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Catalina Foothills High School is videoing all 415 graduates individually over three days crossing the stage with their diploma cover. Small groups of graduates are escorted toward the stage and stand next to cones set apart for social distancing. After video and still pictures, graduates are given a t-shirt as they leave. “Its an amazing amount of work and planning, but our grads are worth it,” said Julie Farbarik, director of Alumni and Community Relations at Catalina Foothills School District.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Lunchtime is normally standing room only at R&R Pizza Express, 13,905 N. Sandario Road, Marana. But it was sparsely attended on May 11, 2020, as the state allowed restaurants to re-open their dining rooms. Owner Linda Molitor carefully spaced tables to maintain social distancing for dining-in.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Jordan Wentzel works on a customer’s return at DSW located at 7191 E. Broadway, on May 12, 2020. Shoes tried on and returned by customers are cleaned with disinfectant and then stored for three days before being put back on the floor.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Dr. Susan McMahon, left, lifts a healthy Camille Keicher as mother Audrey gives a reassuring nudge during Camille’s six-month well-visit at Mesquite Pediatrics, 2350 N. Kibler Place, Tucson, on May 15, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Carolina Castillo, house keeping staff member, wipes down a chair and table in the food court at Park Place Mall, 5870 E. Broadway Blvd., in Tucson, Ariz. on May 19, 2020. Malls reopened today under CDC guidelines and Gov. Ducey’s new rules for businesses due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Park Place Mall has signs throughout the mall reminding customers to keep a six feet distance as well as hand sanitizer stations near each entrance. About half of the tables in the food court have been removed to allow for social distances as well as less than half of the stores have opened with new guidelines. Of the stores open, only 10 customers are allowed to shop in each store at a time.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

The B Gates are largely empty on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, less than a dozen people waiting for flights at Tucson International Airport, May 22, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Brian McKinley carts out the extra chairs for temporary storage after the seating had been rearranged to meet COVID19 restrictions at Rincon Presbyterian Church, May 21, 2020, Tucson, Ariz. Houses of worship are searching for ways to adapt to the new reality.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Ernie Villalobos, general manger of Roadhouse Cinemas, talks with returning employees about some of the new safety measures at Roadhouse Cinemas, 4811 E. Grant Rd., in Tucson, Ariz. on June 9, 2020. Roadhouse Cinemas will reopen on Wednesday June 10 at 3:15 p.m. with new safety measures in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The new safety measures include plexiglass set up in front of cashier stations, informational signs placed through out the theater as well as signs on the floor indicating 6-feet distances. Each of the nine theaters will be at 50% capacity to allow for distancing between seats.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Fatuma Mohamud, employee, walk past two plexiglass stands infant of registers at Funtasticks, 221 E. Wetmore Rd., in Tucson, Ariz. on June 17, 2020. Funtasticks has reopened with new safety procedures in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. All attractions are open with equipment being cleaned after ever use, social distancing signs and plexiglass placed in front of registers.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Students in the “Let’s Spin” class ride their stationary bikes outdoors at Let’s Sweat, 439 N 6th Ave., on August 19, 2020. Soleil Chiquette, owner of the fitness studio and gym, says she moved her classes outdoors and limited class sizes in order to adhere to coronavirus disease guidelines. She’s had to cancel some classes that involve students to be indoors. Chiquette says an app was created for her business when the pandemic first started so that members can have access to fitness classes and challenges.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Cafeteria worker Francis Fontes sorts chicken nuggets into bags for grab-and-go distribution use at the Tucson Unified School District-Food Services building located at 2150 E. 15th Street, on Sept. 23, 2020. The TUSD Food Services Department has continued to provide services for students and families throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by distributing thousands of meals a week for students. In addition to the daily grab-and-go distribution throughout the city, the district has implemented an alternative weekly pickup of a week’s worth of meals (including breakfast, lunch, and five days of snacks) at the TUSD Food Services Department Central Facility off of 15th street.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Alyssa Cossey, conductor and director of the University Community Chorus (UCC), sets up for a webinar series she is directing from her home on September 8, 2020. The webinar takes place twice a month for the school semester. Cossey wanted to create something for people to participate in during this lack of physical choir performances and rehearsals due to the coronavirus disease pandemic. The series is free and open to the public.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Music director Eric Holtan leads the True Concord Choir during rehearsal for their upcoming performance, “The Nurturer – Brahms Requiem,” at Dove of Peace Lutheran Church, 665 W. Rollercoaster Road, on Oct. 19, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Eli Hyland, left, 78, starts to form a heart with her hands while watching her daughter Karen Shea form a heart during their outdoor visit at Elderhaven Assisted Living, 2501 N. Soldier Trail, in Tucson, Ariz., on October 22, 2020. They started making hearts with their hands during their window visits and it has stuck, said Shea. Shea was able to visit her mother through window visits during the pandemic but recently Shea was able to visit her mom in an outdoor setting under strict protocols. They were required to wear masks, get their temps taken, maintain a six-foot distance at all times and were not allowed to touch each other.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Tiana Hair, PCC psychology clinical instructor, grabs a filled COVID-19 saliva test tube during a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Pima Community College East Campus, 8181 E. Irvington Rd., in Tucson, Ariz. on Dec. 11, 2020. Arizona State University in partnership with the Arizona Department of Health Services is now offering appointment only drive-thru COVID-19 testing, via a saliva test, at three Pima Community College campuses.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Second-grade students make gingerbread cookies while a warm fire burns on the Smart board at Mesa Verde Elementary School, 1661 W. Sage St. on Dec. 17, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Marcos Moreno, a volunteer for 15 years with Miracle en el Barrio, writes the number of children on the front of a mini-van as he welcomes families to the Tucson Rodeo Grounds for the 18th year of the event, on Dec. 18, 2020. As a precaution against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the annual event used a drive-thru style format to handout toys, gift cards and other items to children and families



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Five-year old Antonio Moreno reaches out to Santa Claus, getting as close to him as the COVID-19 protective snow-globe bubble will allow during the Tucson Parks and Recreation’s drive-thru Cookies With Santa at Donna R. Liggins Recreation Center, Tucson, Ariz., December 16, 2020. It was slow at the drive-thru and when there were no others around, a few kids like Antonio got a chance to almost touch the Big Guy.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

A playground structure closed due to the coronavirus pandemic at Arthur Pack Regional Park north of Tucson on May 8, 2020.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Kris Green stands with hands over heart as students pass by on her last day as a teacher at Manzanita Elementary School on Oct. 23, 2020. After nearly 40 years, she decided to retire before in-person instruction begins on Oct. 26. Green was a district teacher of the year.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Elana Bloom: It was very shocking. Everything I had planned for, my whole business was canceled over a two day period. Bloom owns Solstice, a textile business and would make most of her money in the Spring to help with the slower months of the summer. April 14, 2020



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Sgt. Michael Moseley receives the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine during the administration of the vaccination to members of the public who meet the 1B priority eligibility of at Tucson Medical Center’s Marshal Center, on Jan. 15, 2021.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

People are directed into the line at the University of Arizona’s COVID19 drive-thru vaccination facilities on the school’s mall, Tucson, Ariz., February 5, 2021.



Coronavirus Pandemic in Tucson

Resident Victor Braun laughs with a CVS Pharmacy health care worker after getting his first dose of the Moderna COVID vaccine at Hacienda at the Canyon, Tucson, Ariz., January 27, 2021. The facility’s residents and staff were part of a two day vaccination program in conjunction with CVS Pharmacy and monitored by the in-house personnel from TMCOne clinic.



Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 520-235-0308 or [email protected]

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