After a great birthday weekend, celebrated with some family, I woke up in the night knowing something was wrong. I woke Dominica up telling her that something was up and that I felt I needed to get to the hospital. So we called the 911 and soon an ambulance was whisking me away to Evergreen hospital in Kirkland. I remember the ride and being wheeled in to the ER and the next memory I have, I woke up at the UW Hospital, sedated and attached to multiple probes, tubes and machines.
I got the VID, the delta version, and it was kicking my rear end.
Most of the story came together after many days had transpired. They put me on an Ecmo machine, which come to find out, did all the breathing, and heart function for me. That is how sick I was. The doctor at Evergreen was on his last day at the hospital and called all over the region to see if I could be placed on an Ecmo. I found out later that my dear friend, Dave DeVries had come by Evergreen, convinced the front desk that he was my pastor (he is) and walked back and forth by my door praying for me. When I heard that, tears streamed down my face. The Evergreen doc found me a spot and the Udub came through and I was placed in their care. I guess it is good to be a Husky!
I was sedated for almost a full month. They flipped me onto my stomach constantly (supposedly that helped my lungs open up), and I have little recollection of any of it. Dom, my kids, and others tried to video chat with me every day for several days, talking to me and I was completely unaware. My oldest son, Nate, came back from Army to visit me, twice, and I didn’t even know he was there. Crazy. At one point the team took me off sedation to ask if I wanted to call my family. I said no initially but then after 3 or 4 more attempts to get me to call, I realized what they were saying (or not saying). They thought this was the end. I called, briefly spoke to Dom and Loch, and that was it. I was faced with the thought of not waking back up. I knew that the Priest had even come to give me last rites. Father Heric, of EC, sent one of his colleagues over, for which I was grateful.
I didn’t have a super sense of my mortality but I said a simple prayer (hoped that I had committed my life to the Lord proper all those years ago!) and even called out my mom, saying, “I may be coming to see you.”
The hallucinations were horrific. The medicine, machines, whatever it was gave me the craziest, most startling dreams and visions. It literally grossed me out. At one point, I thought that there were candles burning under my bed and I tried to get the nurses attention to get rid of them! So weird.
At some point, I think late December, I began to come back around. I didn’t die and was now becoming more stable. They took me off Ecmo but was still in ICU for awhile. I think it was early January, that I began to “wake up” and was conscious enough to think about what was really going on. I was feeling the overwhelming prayer and support from many family friends. I don’t want to short change this. I could literally FEEL the love and prayer. It literally kept me alive. I found out later that several groups of people, most of whom I knew, and some I didn’t, were meeting together in prayer. Special prayer meetings for my health and to beat back death. Songs of worship, passionate prayer, and belief began to flood my hospital room. I went from feeling desolate and a bleak outlook to hope, and the word that came to me strong, BELIEVE.
If I didn’t believe, it wouldn’t matter. I began to say this (although I couldn’t speak but one soft word at a time) phrase “I believe that I will get healed and will beat back this disease” over and over again. Belief would carry me through this. I want to be clear on this too, this COVID thing is nothing short of evil. There is something VERY WRONG and otherworldly about it. It is not just a simple sickness. It is on the attack and at this point in my journey, we (God, me and the saints) were starting to push back and win.
I asked the medical team to write the word BELIEVE and post it on my board and one of the docs was happy to do so. I could look up and remind myself to believe, to not quit, to keep fighting. People were believing for me and counting on me to come back. My body began to respond to it.
Every day in January it felt like I was getting incrementally better. My blood sugar fell in line to where for the last 4 plus weeks, I did not need corrective insulin. The respiratory team would check on my a few times per day and they took me off high flow, and tweaked the oxygen down because my lungs were getting stronger until one day, they took me completely off oxygen help and I began to breathe on my own. Right around that time a few people, my sister and and some friends sent me the song “Breathe” by Maverick City Music. The words are so powerful and were exactly what I needed, really my lungs needed to hear. I played it every night as I drifted off to sleep. I really believe my subconscious picked up on it and “told’ my lungs and body to breathe, to get stronger, and to heal. Soon after the MDs didn’t hear fluid in my lungs when they put their stethescopes up to my chest. Nothing short of miraculous.
So recap. Blood sugar was getting in line, lungs were clearing and my strength was coming back! Next up was physical therapy.
First attempt at standing was crazy. I have been standing for 46 years and suddenly couldn’t. First attempt was exhausting and I couldn’t even do it. Second was better but had to lay down almost immediately. Finally there was enough strength to get up and stand for 10 seconds and then progressively got better. One of the PT team asked one day if I wanted to try and walk. I was nervous but said sure. I was able to go 4 steps! Each day it got better and ultimately ended up walking, slowly and only a few steps initially, down the hospital halls. I started with a wheelchair behind me along with an oxygen tank and then was able to get rid of both. Over time, I was able to do stairs (thank you PT!), walk with no walker or support and that was part of why they ultimately sent me home.
I want to stress the gratitude I have for the whole UW team that worked with me. EVERY team member from housekeeping to the MD’s took great care of me. I, along with so many others prayed that the team would have wisdom and “pivot” when needed to adjust medicine, push me when I needed it, back off when important and so much more. I was in great hands. I know many people who are skeptical of Western medicine and what doctor’s say, but I felt that I was being very well taken care of and am super grateful. Prayer, belief, plus being in good, caring hands is why I am here writing about this. I wouldn’t have made it if any of these three were lacking.
I am home and it feels awesome to be here. Each day I am getting stronger, gaining more energy and getting slowly back to more of my daily routine. I hope to return to work in March some time at some capacity. I try to walk whenever I can and have barely used my walker (the rolling kind like my mom used to use).
This is a little bit of a repeat but want to emphasize how amazing it was to feel the support from so many people. Friends, family, people I haven’t met, faith and non-faith community, work and professional colleagues and so many more. I had friends that I hadn’t spoken with in years reach out. There were prayer meetings for me. There were gift cards, cash, and tons of love shared for me and to my family. My wife, kids and sister were especially amazing. They were strong, and focused on every little detail, from finances to food, as they navigated some of the darker stretches of me being gone. I have always felt I was pretty good with words, but am having a hard time communicating the level of thankfulness I have for all of them (you). I can only say thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I literally would not be here without all of you.