On July 1, John Ryan, an EMT with Suffield Ambulance, was released from hospital and rehabilitation care after 60 days battling COVID-19. An uphill battle, John’s recovery and homecoming were welcome events for many people.
John, 61, who lives in East Hartford, formerly an EMT in Simsbury, has been an EMT here in Suffield for approximately six years. He considered studying to work in this field since his college roommate, an EMT himself, told stories of the job and encouraged John to try it out. John, a commercial photographer, eventually took courses to become an EMT and is now working to become a paramedic, a more specialized form of EMT, one who can execute a higher level of care for patients. He chose to apply in Suffield, because it reminded him of where he grew up in upstate New York.
On May 3, not initially realizing that he had contracted the coronavirus, John became ill at home. His son noticed that he was sleeping at a time of day not usual for John. His temperature was taken, and because it registered 103 degrees, they went to St. Francis Hospital for treatment. John was given a COVID test and then an X-ray. The doctor said that they didn’t need the results of the test to confirm coronavirus, since John’s X-ray showed classic COVID signs. He spent the next few days in the COVID unit at St. Francis, but shortly after that, John became very weak and lost consciousness. He did not wake for another 12-13 days. The tests determined that he’d experienced a heart attack.
When he awoke he was bundled up “like a burrito.” When patients have heart attacks they are often wrapped tightly to keep in the body’s heat. Expressing wishes to move his arms and legs, John eventually convinced the nurses and doctors to unwrap him. He made slow progress to learn to use his limbs again. To date, he’s back to normal with one leg which continues to “be stubborn.”
John spent 60 days between St. Francis Hospital and Mt. Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital. About three weeks of rehab helped build back his endurance. Nine of the days at St. Francis he was on a ventilator. John experienced many of the frightening complications of the coronavirus. He had both viral and bacterial pneumonia, his kidneys shut down and he experienced delusions and hallucinations. He lost 70 pounds as well as his sense of taste (which is back), but not smell. While these complications were terrible, one of the greatest obstacles was isolation. Since his wife Beverly and his two adult children were not allowed into the hospital to visit or stay with John, he only saw the nurses and doctors, who were, as might be expected, very busy with the overload of patients at that time. It was particularly stressful for his family, who could only “visit” via phone or iPad. Once John got to Mt. Sinai for rehab, the family was allowed very limited in-person visitation.
Treatments for the virus included large doses of antibiotics, full-time 100% oxygen, antibodies from a COVID donor, vitamins and fluids. John is so very thankful to all the nurses, doctors and staff whose encouragement was also vital to his recovery. The nursing staff was amazing!
On the day of John’s release from Mt. Sinai, there was an enthusiastic crowd who came to celebrate his remarkable recovery. Family and friends were joined by members of Suffield EMS, American Medical Response, the Suffield Police Department, Hartford Police Department and Hartford Fire Department, as part of the group of excited and relieved well-wishers. John is overwhelmed and appreciative of everything that his wonderful at-home and EMT families continue to do, and he hopes to be back at his EMT job by October!
John’s message to the public is that coronavirus is not a joke. Wear masks, wash hands, and stay at a distance when it’s possible. Young people are increasingly becoming targets of this disease, and we all need to do our part to reduce the spread, so do your part. Glad to have you home, John. ζ