HUDSON FALLS — Coronavirus put Ron Jarvis into the hospital for 32 days.
But he lived to tell the tale — an outcome that was very much in doubt on Easter Sunday.
Glens Falls Hospital was preparing to take him off a ventilator, after 14 long days.
But while sedated on the ventilator, he had become unresponsive — so unresponsive that medical providers feared the worst. They asked the family: if he was still unresponsive when they took him off the ventilator, should they intubate him again? Or just let him die peacefully?
“I’ve been scared to death. I thought I was going to lose him and it devastated me,” his wife Ann said.
They have been married for 57 years.
Nurses held up an iPad outside his room, letting them see him through the window while he was on the vent. He didn’t look good.
As things got worse, nurses brought the iPad into his room, holding it next to him so that he could hear his family’s voices.
It was a reversal of fortunes the family had not expected. Ann and Ron had gone to the hospital together. Both of them were feeling ill. But when they arrived, Ron’s oxygen level was acceptable. Ann’s was not. They kept her overnight and sent him home — no visitors allowed, even visitors who probably had the same virus as the patient.
“We both went to the hospital at the same time and then they said I have to stay and he had to go home. I just cried and cried,” Ann said.
The next day, after receiving oxygen, she was deemed ready to go home. Two of the couple’s children moved in to help take care of her.
It seemed as though they’d dodged a bullet.
But as the days went by, Ron got worse and worse. On March 31, they called an ambulance.
Ron’s last memory of the hospital is of a doctor asking him if it was okay to intubate him. He said yes, feeling like he couldn’t breathe.
The ventilator saved his life. It bought time for his body to beat back the virus. The frightening thing was how unresponsive he was while on the vent.
The family told the doctors and nurses to do whatever they thought best if he didn’t respond after the ventilator was turned off.
“We were very, very scared. We were afraid he was going to lose his life,” his daughter Melanie Dinwiddie said.
But he started breathing on his own.
By the time he was discharged to Slate Valley Center for rehabilitation, he tested negative for coronavirus. He needed rehab because the long illness had wreaked havoc on his body.
He now uses a walker and gets dizzy when he walks. He’s lost muscle tone.
“He’s got a long way to go to get back to his normal self,” Dinwiddie said.
She and her sister Teresa Goldman moved in to take care of their parents, quarantining themselves for 14 days after they arrived. Neither of them got sick.
After a week and a half at Slate Valley, he was ready to come home. Waiting for him at the entrance were nearly a dozen motorcycle riders from American Legion Post No. 574.
He is a rider for the post. He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
He’s been part of motorcycle parades in the past, to welcome someone else home, but never as the recipient.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It made me proud of being a vet.”
They escorted him all the way to his Hudson Falls home.
He has just one word to describe the virus: “Terrible.”
He can’t remember most of the 32 days he spent in the hospital.
Now he’s motivated to get well enough to ride his motorcycle again.
“I’m working on it,” he said. “I feel pretty good now. I’m striving to try to come through this so I can walk and do things I used to do.”
His wife is just glad he’s home.
“Mother’s Day was the greatest day in the world because I had my husband back,” she said.
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