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State treasurer cites movie line as inspiration in fight against coronavirus

Posted April 3, 2020 12:43 p.m. EDT
Updated April 10, 2020 5:56 p.m. EDT

— State Treasurer Dale Folwell cited line from "Shawshank Redemption" as his motivation through his battle with coronavirus.

"Get busy living or get busy dying," Tim Robbins' character says in the prison movie classic.

Folwell said the scene came to mind as he struggled to breathe, in the intensive care unit with COVID-19.

"I made a decision that there was a battle going on in my chest, and if I did not want to go onto the next phase of this, which unfortunately a lot of people go into that, I had to start breathing and concentrating in such a way so that my immune system and the strength of my lungs could start winning," he said.

Folwell, 62, was spent five days at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19 last month. He had no pre-existing conditions.

He was never placed on a ventilator "or otherwise incapacitated," the Treasurer's Office said in a statement.

"He has been in contact with his family and necessary senior staff members at the Department of State Treasurer (DST) throughout his illness," the statement reads. "He has continued to lead DST, with the assistance of his deputies, and has been as engaged as necessary given the severity of his illness and his need to rest and recuperate."

Three others in the Treasurer's Office came down with coronavirus as well. They are also on the rebound.

"Anytime that anybody is down with anything in our office, it’s something that I think about personally, and this was no different," Folwell said.

The treasurer manages a number of major state programs, including the State Health Plan for employees, teachers and retirees, the state pension plan and a division that oversees local government debt issues.

Nearly 400 office employees are working from home, the release states.

“This is an equal opportunity offender," Folwell said. "It can affect anyone. And don’t take breath for granted.”

Folwell will continue his recovery at home, and he asked "all those who are concerned to please give him time to continue to convalesce."

In the statement, Folwell and his family thanked his doctors and the staff at Wake Forest Baptist.

"He also wanted all to know the incredible job that the registered nurses, certified nurse assistants and support staff do every day for all the patients under their care," the statement reads. "Their professionalism and concern for his health was an essential factor in his speedy recovery and eventual discharge."

Treasurer Folwell was a candidate for the experimental drug cocktail now being tested on COVID-19 patients. He also says he donated his plasma in hopes of helping other patients as part of a test study being conducted at Duke.

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