Jeff's Story

COVID survivor grateful for hope, healing far from home

On the road to Columbus, long-haul truck driver Jeff Dixon called his wife. He wasn’t feeling well. After dropping the freight, he planned to pull off and rest for the day. He’d see the doctor when he got home.

What happened next was a blur. On Memorial Day, someone found Jeff unconscious in his rig and called 911. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19.

Jeff was placed on a ventilator, temporarily paralyzed and proned (placed on his stomach). The virus set Jeff’s body on a roller-coaster ride of progress and setbacks, including cardiac issues.

After one month in an acute care hospital, Jeff turned a corner and was ready for the next step in healing. He transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – Victorian Village.

Respiratory therapists assessed Jeff and gradually reduced ventilator support. They led deep breathing, coughing and chest exercises to expand lung capacity.

Several days later, Jeff’s wife drove from Tennessee, arriving in time to celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary. That day, with the help of speech and respiratory therapists, Jeff graduated to a special collar, allowing him to speak and tell his wife he loved her. The couple also made a video to send to their grandson.

Eventually, Jeff had airway support removed and breathed independently.

Physical and occupational therapy also began on day one. Therapists helped Jeff sit in bed, roll and work on sitting at its edge to build strength and improve mobility. They guided him into a chair that supported redevelopment of his core muscles.

Dietitians and speech therapists created a meal plan to transition Jeff back to regular food. His therapist also led him through mouth, tongue and jaw exercises that refined swallowing reflexes.

After a month, Jeff was breathing, walking and eating independently. He returned home and plans to retire. If the virus has taught him anything, he said, it’s that time with his wife and family can’t be replaced.