Family and faith play big roles in Darryl Pringle’s life. They bring meaning and inspiration to the 38-year-old father of four boys and were critical to helping Darryl recover this fall from acute respiratory failure fueled by COVID-19.
He was on a business trip and grabbed a flight back to his hometown of Akron, determined to see three of his sons play in their high school football game that day. Despite feeling some chills after stepping off the plane, Darryl bundled up against the raw weather and enjoyed watching his kids in the game. In speaking to his mom the next day, he said he felt worse and breathing had become difficult. She compelled him to go to the emergency room.
Tests at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital showed Darryl was COVID positive and by then, struggling to breathe. With decreasing oxygen levels to fuel his body, he had a hard time moving and said he doesn’t recall much after being admitted.
The Army vet had seen battle, but his family knew he was in for the fight of his life as he was taken to the ICU, intubated and placed on a ventilator and feeding tube. Doctors also gave him blend of antibiotics to fight COVID. Over several days, the medical team prevailed and Darryl stabilized. He required more recovery time and, with his father weighing in, Darryl was transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – Akron. The critical illness recovery hospital was close to home and offered complex respiratory and medical care as well as rehabilitation services including physical, occupational and speech therapies.
A physician-led care team of skilled professionals assessed and created a care plan for Darryl to help him recover. Nursing and Respiratory monitored his medical needs and pulmonary status, slowly decreasing oxygen levels allowing his lungs to do more of the work. They carefully eased Darryl off the ventilator allowing him to breathe independently again – he was ready for speech language therapy. The team gave him swallowing exercises that strengthened the muscles required to eat and drink. They also moved him to increasingly thicker liquids to prepare him for eating regular foods.
Physical therapy was also on hand daily, helping Darryl move his arms and legs setting him on a path to recondition his body and regain overall movement. “My therapist’s energy level was motivating, he always came in positive and ready to work. I’m young and in good shape, so if I can’t do something, it motivates me and I try harder,” Darryl said. Their first goal was incremental arm and leg movement, followed by sitting up, moving to the edge of the bed, transferring to a chair and standing. His first steps soon followed and Darryl’s spirits started to lift; he could see his end goal of walking and eating normally again.
Darryl’s sons provided even more lift. Always a big presence in their lives, it was their turn to show up for him, and they did. Because COVID prevented in room visits, they regularly appeared at his window with smiles and positivity.
“Getting home to my sons motivated me. When I started to walk I would take a lap around the unit, come back to my room, touch their picture then go for another lap. I would repeat this over and over. I am their support and they are mine,” he said.
Between Darryl’s sons, parents and friends offering encouragement, hope and prayers, his drive grew. He offers advice to others in the same spot as he was, “Facetime, call, check on them. I was so out of it in ICU, but my family was always there, everywhere.”
Two weeks after admitting to Select Specialty Hospital – Akron and 52 days after admitting to Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Darryl was eating everyday food, moving without assistance and walking over 1,000 feet. With that, he walked out of the hospital and into the welcome embrace of his family, ready to return home.