Randy's Story

Reassuring support during an unprecedented time

In early May, when Randy Critser, 56, came down with the tell-tale signs of COVID-19, including a cough, fever and shortness of breath, his wife, Laurie, immediately took him to the emergency room at Bryan East Hospital.

His condition quickly declined and he underwent a tracheostomy for airway support, was placed on a ventilator and had a feeding tube inserted. For 42 days, Randy battled for his life as a variety of interventions, including convalescent plasma, were tested.

By June, Randy turned a corner. Bryan East attempted to liberate him from the ventilator, but Randy was unable to breathe independently. However, he stabilized enough for doctors to consider the next step in his recovery. They chose Select Specialty Hospital – Lincoln for its experience liberating medically complex patients from ventilators.

He arrived unable to breathe, eat, speak or move on his own.

A physician-led team of nurses, therapists, dietitians and pharmacists created a plan to help Randy recover.

Nursing worked closely with Randy to make sure his care needs were met, collaborating with the pharmacists on pain management and wound healing. He worked with respiratory therapy on breathing and chest exercises to increase his stamina and lung capacity – and just three days after arriving, Randy was able to spend 40 minutes on a trach mask. He graduated to a smaller airway support and by the end of his ninth day was spending the entire morning and afternoon off the ventilator. He continued to improve and, by the end of June, was strong enough to liberate from the vent. Just after the Fourth of July, Randy’s airway support was removed and he needed only a small tube of oxygen at his nose.

Randy was so excited to breathe independently, he told the medical team to keep it a secret – he wanted to surprise Laurie when she visited later in the day. As soon as she walked into the room, Laurie noticed and cried out with joy. It was a milestone moment.

During this time, physical and occupational therapists were putting Randy through a mobility program, encouraging him to sit up in bed, roll and move to its edge. They worked on range of motion and resistance exercises to build up his arm and leg muscles.

Randy then moved to a chair, which helped increase his core strength. Therapists fitted him with a walker and he stood for the first time in more than a month. He soon passed another milestone—taking a short walk in the hallway, first with his therapists, then on his own.  Speech therapists led him through mouth, tongue and jaw exercises to improve his swallowing ability. Dietitians then crafted a meal plan to help Randy transition back to a regular diet. They started with ice chips and pureed foods, moving up to normal meals.

By mid-July, Randy met all his goals. While still weak, he was ready for the next step in his coronavirus recovery journey. He transferred to David City Hospital for several more weeks of inpatient rehabilitation.