An Oshkosh man who tested positive for COVID-19 last month has recently made a remarkable recovery.
The 59-year-old patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, was admitted to Ascension Mercy in Oshkosh on March 25 where he tested positive for COVID-19. He was one of the first individuals to test positive for the virus in Winnebago County. As of April 19, there have been 41 positive cases and 1 death related to COVID-19 in Winnebago County.
Dr. Francisco Zornosa, a member of Ascension Mercy’s COVID intensive care unit team, says despite some mild hypertension, the patient was generally in good health.
“He had been experiencing fever and shortness of breath, but otherwise he was stable,” Dr. Zornosa says. “Shortly after he was admitted, he deteriorated and required more oxygen. With worsening shortness of breath, it became clear he was really struggling and we proactively intubated him.”
The patient was put on a ventilator in the COVID ICU for 11 days. Slowly he began to show signs of improvement in early April and was taken off the ventilator on Monday, April 6. The patient was moved out of the COVID unit on April 9 to work with physical, occupational and speech therapists to regain his strength.
“He was very critically ill at one point. He was maxing out in terms of what we could offer him with a ventilator,” Dr. Zornosa says. “He could have gone the other way.”
Due to the patient’s critical condition, his recovery is especially remarkable.
“He is a ray of hope that things can work and patients can get better,” Dr. Zornosa says. “With all the doom and gloom everyone is feeling now and frustrations with the restrictions, it’s refreshing to see a good outcome and that our team effort worked.”
At 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14 the patient was discharged from Ascension Mercy, but will continue to receive antibiotic treatment at home and have virtual follow-ups with specialists and his primary care provider to assist in his recovery.
As the coronavirus began spreading around the world, Ascension Mercy began preparing for its inevitable arrival in Northeast Wisconsin. Registered Nurse Judy Strathmann is the COVID IC unit leader at Ascension Mercy and says the unit worked with teams in multiple departments to adapt their current processes to the needs of the COVID unit, which now takes up the hospital’s entire first floor.
“We had done a lot of preparations from rearranging rooms to implementing policy and educating team members so they were ready to go,” she says. “Our [Ascension Mercy] first floor inpatient rehab and ortho/neuro was moved to a different floor [in the hospital] so that the entire first floor could become a medical COVID unit. If necessary, we also have another floor of the hospital that could be converted quickly to accommodate COVID patients in the event of a surge.”
Due to risk of infection, patient visitation is extremely limited so nursing staff has been facilitating video calls with family members of patients, sometimes utlizing baby monitors if patients are too weak to hold a phone themselves.
“The one thing I find most touching is how the team has responded to treating the whole patient,” Strathmann says. “There’s a heaviness and loneliness to treating this condition and our team realizes that. They are away from their families, so we are really trying to do our best to show true compassion for these patients.”
The patient and his family are grateful for the care he received at Ascension Mercy, “I couldn’t have imagined better care, we are extremely grateful,” he said.
Click here for additional information on COVID-19 and Ascension resources or call the dedicated COVID-19 informational hotline at 1-833-981-0711.
Watch the video below to see the patient’s emotional discharge and send off from his Ascension Mercy care team.