They say that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ This saying hit home for teachers, students, and staff at Permenter Middle School when custodian Shawn Lewis became very ill in January 2020. After COVID-19 wreaked havoc within Lewis’ body, it took a year and a half for him to recover.

Shawn Lewis is the custodian at Permenter Middle School in Cedar Hills. For the past five years, he enjoyed working for the district, WFAA reported. The staff at the school speak highly of Lewis and they truly felt the void he left when he was absent for over a year fighting to overcome COVID-19.

Permenter staff said Lewis was always the one to lend an extra hand to the teachers, children, and his fellow workers. Though encouraging and impacting students is traditionally part of the job description for a custodian, for Lewis, those acts of kindness towards the kids come naturally.

John Ensley, principal of Permenter, stated in an interview, “He comes in every day with a great attitude.” Cynthia Arceneaux, a seventh-grade teacher added, “We all appreciate and love him… We couldn’t be here at school without him.”

COVID-19 struck Lewis very early on, before much of the American public was aware of the illness or its spread. It’s possible he was within the group of people who first contracted the virus in the U.S., as he struggled with it in January of 2020.

During the forty-five days Lewis spent fighting for his life in the hospital, it was not certain if he would even survive, according to the doctors. “They had to put me in a coma just so they could save my life,” Lewis shared.

After two weeks of being in a medically induced coma, Lewis woke up fifty pounds lighter, and couldn’t eat, talk, or walk on his own. It took a year and a half for him to relearn how to function again. Thankfully, he made a full recovery and is now back to the job he loves.

“From everything I’ve been through in 2020, learning how to walk again, talk again and get everything back, I’m just happy to be back,” Lewis expressed.

After seeing how his life could have ended when the virus took over his body, Lewis emerged from the experience with a new perspective on the value of life. “I love everything more now… I love life, everything more. Because everything was almost taken, not just the job, everything. My life was almost gone. I’m just happy I got everything back,” Lewis said.

Permenter Middle School’s website states that their staff upholds the values of fairness, responsibility, respect, caring, trustworthiness, and citizenship. According to Lewis’s fellow staff, they can count on him to meet that standard.