A decorated veteran faces his toughest fight – and wins
On March 15, Kenneth Bullock was home in Mount Pleasant, Texas when his wife noticed that he was having difficulty breathing.
Concerned, she drove him to the local hospital’s emergency room, where tests revealed Kenneth had chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, was in congestive heart failure and had two inflamed windpipe tumors. He was placed on a ventilator while in the ER.
The next morning, Kenneth moved to a regional medical center in Plano, where further examination discovered pneumonia and septic shock.
He seesawed between progress and setbacks. Kenneth graduated from the ventilator to a pressurized breathing mask. Two weeks later, respiratory failure triggered cardiac arrest. It took seven minutes to restart his heart. Doctors placed temporary airway support.
Once medically stable, he transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – Longview. Kenneth arrived on a breathing machine, with intravenous medication and still battling pneumonia. Scans detected three small strokes and frontal lobe damage. He spent 10 days in a vegetative state.
At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across the United States and hospital visitation was restricted. However, Kenneth’s daughter Kim said there were “no words” to describe how comforted their family was, from the first day, by the Longview team.
“The staff went above and beyond to give our family peace of mind,” Kim said. They arranged phone and video chats, updating them on everything from the admission process to therapy progress.
To help Kenneth return home, a physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a recovery plan.
Respiratory therapists led breathing and chest exercises and gradually stepped back ventilator settings, enabling him to liberate within three and a half weeks of arrival.
A speech therapist stepped in to cap his tracheostomy with a speaking valve, training the upper airways to work again. Kenneth relearned how to breathe normally and practiced speech and vocalization.
Simultaneously, physical and occupational therapists started a mobility program. Beginning with simple movements, such as sitting in bed and at its edge, they gradually intensified activity until Kenneth could transition to a chair and practice standing.
By June 9, his 86th day in the hospital, Kenneth was preparing for the next step in care. Having met the primary treatment goal of breathing independently, he departed three days later for an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. There, he continued building strength before returning home.
Kim said her father is a survivor, to whom family means everything. He served a two-year stint in Vietnam, earning three Bronze Stars for combat missions. Kim was born on Veteran’s Day and the whole family typically gathers for a big celebration. She’s hoping, this year, they can celebrate together.
“We almost lost my Dad twice,” she said. “And then, we weren’t sure if he would ever wake up. By the grace of God, though prayer and faith, we still have him. We will continue to give God all the glory for his miraculous healing.”