Since the coronavirus pandemic first emerged, the courageous and life-saving efforts of doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff have often made the difference between survival or death for tens of thousands of patients.
Now COVID-19 survivors are returning to the hospitals where they found the deadly SARS-CoV-2 infection to thank the heroes to whom they owe their lives.
Rick Huggins of Minnesota
In early March, Rick Huggins, 51 and his wife Patty drove to Ohio to visit family, but cut their trip short when Rick started to feel ill. Within just a week, Rick became severely sick with a fever that kept rising. This was in the earliest days of COVID-19, before doctors fully understood what they were up against.
“Being a guy, I was trying to tough it out at home and my wife finally, thank God, had enough of it and forced me to come to the hospital,” he recalled. “And I’m thankful that she did it; had she not done that I’d probably have died in my bed that night. But it never crossed my mind. Like so many people still today that think it’s just the flu. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
Shortly after being admitted to Bethesda in St. Paul, doctors intubated Rick. A month passed before they could remove the intubation, and he spent nearly three weeks in a rehab center.
“I didn’t have the strength to roll over in bed without help. I couldn’t stand on my own. I had to learn to walk again,” Rick said. “It was a milestone, just to be able to walk from my hospital bed to the restroom and back. I would be covered in sweat from it. It was so grueling.”
Patty Huggins thanks the nurses at Bethesda for their patience and compassion during that long, terrifying month, especially because she had to rely on phone calls rather than visits to get updates on her husband.
“I would call every morning, like 6 a.m., to see how he did through the night. I’d call about 11. I’d call about 3 or 4 and then 6 and then like 9 o’clock. They were so good. Oh, my God– they never put me in a place where I was afraid to call them,” she explained.
At the end of August, Rick returned to Bethesda Hospital to mark 100 days of recovery by thanking the doctors and nurses who made his survival possible. Once too weak to walk, Rick marked the occasion by biking more than 100 miles to Bethesda. He placed five white roses near a fountain at Bethesda Hospital to honor his friends and family members who lost their battle with COVID-19.
“It definitely changes your outlook on life,” he said of COVID-19. “I feel like I’ve started over again. Things that used to be important to me, they’re not. I don’t get angry in traffic. I don’t worry about things. I’m enjoying life every day right now. If I’m out, and I’m enjoying the blue sky and the clouds and a summer day, that’s the best thing in the world, just to focus on the little things.”