Giant gratitude: Pumpkin growing champ offers thanks after licking COVID

Georgetown-area resident Ed Givens, Delaware’s record-holder with his 1,436-pound pumpkin in 2015, kneels alongside this year’s harvest — a 609-pounder that was the largest gourd to weather a wet growing season. Mr. Givens is also a survivor, having recovered from COVID-19 that hospitalized him 14 days at then Nanticoke Memorial Hospital (now TidalHealth) in Seaford. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — In some ways, 2020 hasn’t really been a great year for Ed Givens.

In other ways it is.

This past spring, the 64-year-old rural Georgetown resident miraculously bounced back to good health as a COVID-19 survivor after he became critically ill, fighting for his life on a ventilator at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford.

Saturday, in the annual fall harvest tradition hosted by Mr. Givens and wife Cindy, he picked this year’s great pumpkin.

Only the largest of this year’s bunch was a 609-pounder that pales in comparison to mammoth gourds Mr. Givens has grown in the pumpkin patch at his Gravel Hill Road residence in the past, including a state record 1,436 pounder in 2015.

“Wet weather and pumpkins are not a good mix,” said Mr. Givens.

Saturday’s pumpkin harvest was laced with a celebration, a pumpkin-themed gathering of upward of 75 people that featured Dogfish pumpkin ale — and sincere thanks to those who pulled and prayed for him when during his 14-day stay at Nanticoke (now TidalHealth).

“Granted, it is no giant,” said Mr. Givens. “But the most important thing is, I am dedicating today’s event to everyone that’s here, for all the prayers and the support that they had given me when I had the virus.”

Mr. Givens was hospitalized with COVID-19 from March 25 until April 7. He was on a ventilator for six days.

“I was the sixth person in the state of Delaware to be hospitalized. I was the first COVID-19 patient at Nanticoke,” he said.
The invited guest list for Saturday’s celebration included those who cared for him.

“I invited some of the nurses today. They need to be recognized, for their training and their education, because they are the ones that kept me alive until I finally turned the corner,” said Mr. Givens. “It wasn’t looking good for me. Of course, I was out most of the time, but when they would come in, I would say, ‘There is a lot of fight left in me; there is going to be a lot of fight left in you. I don’t want you to give up. I am not giving up. We’re going to work together and we’re going to beat this thing.’”

Mr. Givens said the nurses and staff at Nanticoke went above and beyond the call of duty.

“They knew that I like to go play in the dirt and grow giant pumpkins. Right in front of my bed, up on the wall, was a picture of me gardening and growing giant pumpkins. And they knew I liked to play softball. They had a picture of me, ‘Hitting the coronavirus of out the park.’ So, it’s those little things. They didn’t have to do that, but they did it anyway,” said Mr. Givens. “So, I was going to dedicate today’s event to everyone that is here for all of their prayers and support.”

Mr. Givens has named this year’s great pumpkin “Survivor.”

The greenish/grayish gourd with a hereditary mix of squash was the largest one that weathered a challenging season punctuated by several storms, including one that dumped six inches of rain on his patch.

One pumpkin that literally caught Mr. Givens’ eye for incredible growth was among those that met a watery fate.

“I had a stick next to that pumpkin, and I was working close to it, and I could actually see the pumpkin growing — with my naked eye — to the stick. I was growing right there in front of me,” said Mr. Givens.

Sadly, that eight-vined gourd sucked up incredible amounts of water from a stormy deluge. With no water release point, the main vine split, and the potentially giant gourd did not survive.

Interestingly, the 609-pounder was nursed back to health twice by Mr. Givens, who used sulfur/copper fungicide paste to plug the blossom. “It took right off growing again,” said Mr. Givens.

Although it is not the biggest pumpkin, nor the smallest, it survived.

So did Ed Givens.

“That’s the important thing,” said Mr. Givens. “I’m alive. And I can grow pumpkins next year, and the year after that …”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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