Rick Jones just “knew” he had COVID-19 on November 13, 2020, even before tests confirmed it. His symptoms included a 104-degree fever, body aches and trouble getting enough air. After waiting three days to see if he would get better, he got to the point where he felt like he just couldn’t breathe.
He was admitted to Mercy Health Muskegon in November, at the height of the COVID surge last fall. Due to visitor restrictions in place at the time, his wife, Marie, drove him to the hospital but was not able to come inside with him.
Once admitted, things progressed quickly. Jones was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and placed on a ventilator. Marie got a call from Jones’ nurse saying that it might soon be time to “say goodbye,” but promised they would do everything they could to save him.
Things improved, and Jones was taken off the ventilator for four days. However, in the middle of the night, things took a turn for the worse, and Jones had to go back on the ventilator. The nurse who called Marie to give her an update let her know that patients don’t typically survive after being intubated a second time. She was invited to come into the hospital to say goodbye. Marie couldn’t believe this happened to her husband — he is young, perfectly healthy and strong.
“He’s one of the types of COVID patients that you don’t expect to get sick really fast,” said MaryEllen Rosel, DO, a hospitalist at Mercy Health Muskegon who was part of Jones’ care team. “We had so much hope when he got extubated that he would stay off the ventilator and it was just a big setback for all of us. We were all so sad that he went back on a ventilator.”
Fortunately, after many prayers and excellent care from Mercy Health staff, Jones was taken off the ventilator for the second time. He has recovered from COVID and started physical therapy to gain back his strength. Jones was discharged from the hospital on Monday, January 11.
When asked what got him through, Jones was quick to say, “faith, mostly.” When things were looking bad, Jones admitted he made peace with God, and began praying a thanks for his kids and his wonderful wife.
“Thank goodness my prayers were stronger,” said Marie. Though she couldn’t come inside due to visitor restrictions, she would often sit in the parking lot of the hospital and pray.
Jones added, “I can’t say I worked hard because I didn’t do anything. The doctors did everything. There’s a lot of talent here. There’s a lot of good equipment. Everyone cares.”
Though he is still working through physical therapy to recover his strength, Jones is excited to be back home with his daughters, wife and dog.
Down the hall from Jones, another patient named Rick was struggling to recover from COVID-19, as well. Like Jones, in the beginning, this patient had flu-like symptoms that he hoped would subside.
Richard (Rick) Shaffer, 61, was walking to the mailbox in mid-November, when he noticed he was having trouble breathing.
“I knew something was wrong when I could hardly make it back up the driveway,” said Shaffer.
He felt like he had a bad case of the flu and spent the next three days resting in bed, in hopes that he would start to feel better.
When he didn’t get any better, Shaffer went to Mercy Health Muskegon and was admitted with COVID-19 on November 16. Things progressed quickly, and Shaffer was intubated on November 20. On December 8, he had a tracheostomy.
“The doctor leaned over and said he was going to put me on a vent. I said, ‘That’s not good’ and he said, ‘No it’s not,’” Shaffer recalled. “I asked if he’s going to keep me alive, and he said he would do his best. I said a prayer to Jesus thanking him for my life. The next thing I knew, I woke up in Pontiac, Michigan.”
Due to the COVID-19 surge that was happening in Muskegon at that time, Shaffer was transferred to Select Specialty Hospital, a long-term acute care facility in Pontiac, on December 15.
After being taken off the ventilator, Shaffer was then transferred back to Mercy Health Muskegon and the Mary Free Bed Acute Care Rehab Unit for rehabilitation on December 30 to begin physical therapy. While his care team originally thought he would need about a month of rehab, he gained mobility and strength quickly.
Shaffer was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, January 13, two weeks earlier than expected.
When asked how he is feeling now, Shaffer shared, “I feel fine. I’m a guy that wants to go, go, go. I’ve needed to train myself to take baby steps, one day at a time, and try to do a little better each day.”