Alvin's Story

COVID tests a retired logger's strength

It was a hot, mid-Texas summer day and Alvin Erwin felt sick, out of breath and weak.

The 74-year-old’s daughter, Emily, called 911 and he was taken to the emergency room. Doctors diagnosed heat stroke and sent Alvin home. Two days later, with worsening symptoms, he returned. Tests revealed a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, along with irregular heart rhythm.

Alvin was admitted and given high-flow oxygen and intravenous medication. Declining further, he was placed on a ventilator, tracheostomy for airway support and feeding tube.

For two weeks, the retired logger and grandfather of eight battled for his life. By early August, he turned the corner and doctors transferred him to Select Specialty Hospital – Longview for extended healing.

Alvin’s biggest goals were to return home and play with his grandchildren. A physician-led team of nurses, therapists, pharmacists and dietitians created a plan to help him succeed.

Respiratory therapists and pulmonologists began gradually reducing the amount of breathing support the ventilator provided, allowing Alvin’s lungs to take over. They led chest and deep breathing exercises. A little over a month later, Alvin successfully liberated.

Physical and occupational therapists also deployed a mobility plan as the virus left Alvin extremely weak. Each day, the team worked on range of motion and in-bed movement, building strength until he could sit in bed, at its edge and transfer to a chair.  Later, he graduated to standing with therapist support.

Speech and respiratory therapy continued to work on speaking, breathing and relaxation techniques until Alvin’s tracheostomy was removed.

By the time he passed that milestone, Alvin had been away from his family for 70 days. He missed them deeply, so the care team arranged a video chat to lift his spirits.

When COVID-19 visitation restrictions eased, they regularly made the hour-and-a-half drive to spend time with him.

After a month, Alvin was ready for the next phase of recovery. He departed for inpatient rehabilitation closer to home. He was eager to get back closer to his family.

Upon his discharge from Select Specialty Hospital he told his care team, “Everyone has been great and I appreciate all you have done for me.”