Gary Hector’s recollection of catching COVID-19 is fuzzy. He remembers becoming sick, painful coughing and being unable to catch his breath.
At some point, he deteriorated and his girlfriend, Amy, got help. The 67-year-old was rushed to the emergency room, where he fell into respiratory distress and was placed on a ventilator. Soon after, his kidneys failed, requiring dialysis.
After a week in the ICU Gary stabilized and was transferred to Select Specialty Hospital - Flint, a critical illness recovery hospital with experience caring for COVID survivors.
He arrived on a ventilator and dialysis, unable to follow commands or respond to questions.
A physician-led team of nurses, therapists, dietitians and pharmacists created a plan to help Gary heal.
Physical and occupational therapists immediately began a mobility program. At first, Gary could only tolerate range of motion exercises. Over time, as strength and stamina improved, he progressed to sitting in bed, rolling and moving to its edge with assistance.
More alert, Gary worked with respiratory therapy on breathing and chest exercises to increase lung capacity. Two weeks later, he successfully liberated from the ventilator.
Increased oxygen helped physical therapy progress. The “a-ha” moment came when he stood with assistance – his ability level prior to becoming ill. Motivation kicked in and Gary requested resistance bands and additional exercises to perform during down time.
Meanwhile, speech therapists led him through mouth, tongue and jaw exercises to improve swallowing ability, while dietitians crafted a meal plan. He required thickened liquids to prevent choking, but was aiming to drink a Mountain Dew or Sprite when he was able.
As Gary’s kidneys healed, dialysis was discontinued.
After a month with Select Specialty Hospital, he returned home, eager to spend time with Amy and their beloved dog, Patches, after so much time apart.
“I knew I was going to get better because of my faith in God,” Gary said. “Once I got here, I knew I was on the road to recovery.”