September 10, 2020
In late March, Michael Hurt’s wife, Melissa, rushed him to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s (CRMC) emergency department with a 104-degree fever. “I was so hot, my pillow was drenched with sweat,” said the 60-year-old Cheyenne resident. “And it felt like I had a double eye infection—they were both pink and itchy.”
Michael was diagnosed with COVID-19 and admitted to CRMC’s intensive care unit (ICU). Lab tests confirmed the diagnosis.
Within a couple of days, Michael’s condition had deteriorated to the point that he had to be put on a ventilator to help him breath.
“I was on a ventilator for 10 days. I don’t remember any of it, but Melissa does. Things got really bad there for a while,” he said. “At one point they had to ask Melissa what my end-of-life wishes were.”
Due to what Michael and Melissa both called “an incredible group of ICU doctors and nurses,” Michael’s condition slowly began to improve. “They knew they had to prepare my wife and family for the worst, but they never gave up on me,” Michael said. “They did everything they could to save me.”
After about two weeks in the ICU, Michael was transferred to CRMC’s inpatient COVID-19 unit to be sure his health continued to improve. “I was so weak when I got there. I couldn’t lift a plastic cup with ice in it,” he said.
‘Simple things’ mean a lot
Over time, Michael was able to get up and walk around his room. Michael said he was especially happy when he was finally able to take over his own personal hygiene.
“It had been several weeks since I’d been able to take an actual shower,” Michael recalled. “It was such a relief to be able to do that on my own. You don’t realize how much simple things, like washing your hair, really mean until you can’t do them anymore.”
Michael wanted to thank the CRMC nurse who stayed late to be sure he was safe taking a shower. “She was supposed to go home but stayed so that I could do this one thing. It really meant a lot.”
Michael also remembered another “small but important” kindness: “I was still testing positive for COVID-19 so couldn’t leave my hospital room, and my family couldn’t visit in person. But they could bring me diet Pepsi, which I had been missing. The staff made sure I got that diet Pepsi as soon as it got there and that I had a cup of ice to pour it into.”
For their kindness and compassion, Michael nominated several of his nurses and a physical therapist for a DAISY award, which is given to CRMC nursing staff that provides outstanding patient care. “I can’t thank them enough for everything they did,” Michael said.
CRMC doctors and nurses went ‘above and beyond’
Melissa also wanted to thank the doctors and nurses who cared for Michael, especially when his life hung in the balance in those early days: “COVID-19 is very scary! And one of the scariest parts is the unknown. One of Michael’s ICU doctors told me that they were keeping in contact with some of their colleagues in New York to know what to expect from their COVID patients from day to day. Michael’s doctors and nurses went above and beyond to make sure he received the very best care. They saved Michael’s life.”
Michael was finally able to go home in late April. He was still testing positive for COVID-19 so was quarantined at home, along with Melissa and their family. “It was so good to be back home,” he said. “I really wanted to hug my wife and kids and grandchild, but that had to wait until I was no longer positive for the virus.”
Within just a couple of days, Michael started home-based physical therapy, occupational therapy and skilled nursing to help him regain his strength. “The therapy wasn’t much fun, because I was so weak,” he said. “But I’m glad now that I did it.”
COVID-19 is ‘bad news’
Today Michael is able to get around on his own and is also back at work. But he still tires easily, and his heart “races all the time,” he said, even when he’s being still. Michael said his doctors think this new heart condition is likely linked to him having COVID-19.
Given that people who’ve had the novel coronavirus could possibly catch it again, Michael is extremely cautious when he’s at work or out in public.
“I wear a face mask when I’m out, and I tell everyone else to wear one, too,” he said. He also washes his hands a lot and stays apart from other people as much as he can.
“This virus is bad news,” Michael said, reflecting on all that he and his family have been through over the past few months. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
As for Melissa, she wanted the staff and providers at the hospital and its Home Care service to know how much she appreciates them: “Everyone at CRMC is doing the best they can during these hard times. I am very grateful for everything that they have done for Michael and for me and our family.”