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Jim's Recovery from COVID-19 After ICU Stay

May 27, 2020
Jim's Recovery from COVID-19 After ICU Stay

Jim McCarthy spent the early part of March living life normally, just like most people at the time. He even took a trip to Atlanta with his son. During the trip he felt some tightness in his chest and just assumed it was his asthma kicking in due to the weather.

Once home, his symptoms kept getting worse. “I had a fever and my symptoms got progressively worse,” said Jim. “I called my team at TriHealth’s Montgomery Family Medicine.” The team there had Jim get an x-ray and it revealed he had double-pneumonia.

Things didn’t seem to be getting any better. “My wife encouraged me to voluntarily get a test for COVID-19 since I had travelled,” said Jim. “I didn’t do it for me. I did it for those around me, just in case my test came back positive.”

Jim’s test did eventually come back positive, but before it did, his fever spiked and he started feeling a lot worse. “I called my primary care team again and they told me to go to the emergency room because of the issues I had breathing,” said Jim.

Jim went to the emergency department at TriHealth’s Bethesda North Hospital where he was admitted as things got progressively worse. He started out on oxygen in his nose. It progressed to a full facemask to get more oxygen, because he was having a difficult time breathing. Jim was at the hospital when his positive test result came back.

Deborah Rohner MD, an intensivist at Bethesda North, was one of Jim’s primary care givers while he was admitted. “We were hopeful Jim would recover based on his symptoms and medical history,” said Dr. Rohner.

While’s Jim’s early prognosis was positive, his condition quickly worsened. “Things were pretty dark and dismal from my point of view,” said Jim. “I was transferred to the ICU and was told they were going to put me on a ventilator.”

“We decided the ventilator was the best course of action for Jim to have a positive outcome,” said Dr. Rohner. “Even with the odds in his favor, I still had Jim call his family because we didn’t know how long he would be connected to it.”

Visitor restrictions had been implemented at all hospitals at this point. Jim’s family was very worried, especially since they could not be there with him. “I don’t remember much while on the ventilator,” said Jim. “My family said Dr. Rohner and Dr. Satchwell both did a fantastic job staying in touch with them and answered every question they had.”

“COVID-19 has made us change the way we communicate with patient families,” said Dr. Rohner. “I make an effort to call the family at least once a day, sometimes more if a patient’s condition changes.”

Jim spent close to three days on the ventilator. “He is very lucky,” said Dr. Rohner. “He did a good job taking care of himself before his diagnosis, which aided in his ability to recover.”

Jim says he can’t remember each nurse by name because there were so many caring for him. He is grateful for how kind and talented each of them were while he was admitted. In addition to Dr. Rohner’s great care, Jim also said Jeffrey Satchwell, MD, a hospitalist at Bethesda North Hospital, was an integral part of him having success during his stay.

“Dr. Satchwell was instrumental in treating me with the right medications to help my recovery,” said Jim. “He made sure to do what was best for me at any given moment.”

Jim is now home at home recovering. He has had visits from a home care nurse a couple times a week. He also says the tests on his organs have all come back positive

“It is very gratifying to see patients like Jim,” said Dr. Rohner. “Not everyone gets through this like he did.”

He still has no idea how he contracted COVID-19. “I was the only one in my family to have it,” said Jim. “I could have gotten it while in Atlanta, at one of the stops on the way home or somewhere else. I have no idea.”