Paul's Story

Paul in a bowtie, smiling at the camera.

At 79, “Deacon” Paul William Campbell showed no signs of slowing down. He is an avid swimmer, went on daily walks and spent time cleaning at his favorite place outside home – Bethany Baptist Church.

Other days, he’d pick up his grandchildren from school or visit and administer communion to parish members who were on their sickbed, drive church members for errands and find other was to make himself available to anyone in need.

Then, COVID-19 came calling.

After a week of high fevers and uncharacteristic sluggishness, Deacon was taken to an urgent care. There, staff took blood pressure, heartbeat and oxygen readings. With unstable vital signs, doctors urged his family to take him directly to the emergency room.

They did, and he was admitted to the local hospital. Over the next two weeks, his condition steadily declined until he had to be placed on a ventilator. Complications, including kidney injury, followed. A tracheostomy for airway support and feeding tube were connected.

His wife Cora and their children Holli, Rolondo and Dustin prayed and kept vigil by the phone as Michigan was in full lockdown as the virus surged. Not being able to comfort Deacon in-person was difficult.

A short time later, Cora received a phone call they’d been dreading – get to the hospital, she was told, because he might not make it.

The family was permitted a compassionate visit. They gathered and prayed by Deacon’s bedside, anointing his head with oil while loved ones on the phone also prayed.

In spite of dire predictions, Deacon began to rally. His family firmly believes it was a miracle.

Several weeks later, he’d stabilized enough for the family to consider next steps in his recovery. Deacon transferred to a step-down facility for additional healing.

During transfer, the care team discovered Deacon had developed a serious bedsore. The receiving hospital began treating the wound and improved his kidney function. Just as things were looking up, shingles flared.

Not long after the diagnosis, Deacon stopped breathing. A rapid response team brought him back to life and arranged transfer to McLaren Hospital.

Deacon spent another month in intensive care, undergoing surgery to place chest tubes that drained fluid from his lungs.

Stable once more, the family chose Select Specialty Hospital – Northwest Detroit because it was close to home and specialized in caring for patients liberating from ventilators.

Deacon’s family wanted him home, so a physician-led team of nurses, therapists, pharmacists and dietitians created a plan for success.

Respiratory therapists began stepping back ventilator settings and leading chest and deep breathing exercises. Later, a valve was inserted into the airway support that allowed more normal speech. Within two weeks, the ventilator was discontinued.

Nurses managed Deacon’s wound care, ensuring the large ulcer that developed previously continued healing. They oriented him daily to the date, time, season and other information to sharpen mental clarity. They also encouraged in-bed movement to keep blood flowing.

Alert and gaining strength, Deacon actively participated in physical and occupational therapy. Nurses and therapists collaborated to ensure he moved out of bed and into a chair twice a day, which built core muscles. Physical therapists used range of motion and weight-bearing exercises to increase stamina.

Occupational therapists deployed upper body and fine motor tasks, such as picking up small objects, to enhance gripping and grasping capabilities. Over time, he could sit in bed, at its edge and feed himself.

Speech therapists led mouth, throat and jaw exercises to reactivate swallowing reflexes and speech. Dietitians crafted a transitional meal plan that took Deacon’s kidney health into consideration. He resumed eating and drinking, and the feeding tube was removed.

Three weeks later, Deacon had come farther than anyone thought possible. Airway support was removed and he returned independent breathing, supported by a small tube of nasal oxygen.

After an incredible nine-month journey, Deacon departed for home where his family would continue to care for him, supported by in-home occupational, physical and speech therapy services.

Though he must relearn how to walk again and still requires dialysis to address kidney dysfunction, the family rejoices in Deacon’s ongoing recovery.

“I cannot say enough about the staff at Select Specialty Hospital,” the family shared. “They have been impeccable. We were well informed concerning his care and kept in the loop at all times. Thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing the Lord to use you in medically, physically, mentally and spiritually to heal our husband and father. We are forever thankful and grateful for each and every one of you."