Walt Barrett, a 34-year-old local restaurant manager, developed flu-like symptoms in September of last year. He prolonged a doctor’s visit and three months later ended up in the emergency department at Southern Ohio Medical Center. Before he knew it, he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in life-threatening condition.
“I had not been to a doctor in probably eight years before all this,” Barrett said. “I just thought I would feel better but then my cough turned into pneumonia and then I went into respiratory failure.”
Although his memory is fuzzy throughout the first two months of his hospital stay at SOMC, he does remember spending Christmas and New Years Eve with the staff of the ICU.
“The nurses quietly decorated my room while I was asleep on Christmas Eve. I woke up on Christmas morning and was pleasantly surprised to see my room sparkling with lights and ornaments,” he said. “Then, for New Years Eve, we had a party! We watched the ball drop in Times Square, drank cider and celebrated with confetti.”
Barrett said he was grateful for the nurses, therapists, physicians and many other staff who made him feel at home, especially during the holidays. The large team it took to provide Walt’s care became like a second family to him.
“Walt developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) with multi-system organ failure,” Dr. Samer Kseibi, pulmonologist at SOMC, said. “He had a very high mortality rate, almost 100 percent. We didn’t think his complicated condition and lungs would ever recover but we all worked together diligently to keep him alive; the team worked like one pair of hands.”
“Walt came close to death several times but he pulled through,” Michael Hammer, registered nurse in the ICU, said. “He fought just as hard as we did.”
Cindy McQuay, a respiratory therapist at SOMC explained that Walt was put on a ventilator in the beginning and then eventually was weaned off of the machine. He then worked hard with physical, speech, respiratory and rehabilitation therapists to regain his speech and mobility.
After Walt was off the ventilator, he was able to eat for the first time. One nurse was so excited she made homemade mashed potatoes for him.
“We all became emotionally attached to Walt and we didn’t want to give up on him,” McQuay said. “Now he has recovered and my heart melted when I heard him talk for the first time, it’s so rewarding.”
“Walt had been in the ICU for two months. When he left our unit to move to Rehab, we asked him what his goal was,” Christy Aeh, nurse manager of the ICU, said. “He said he wanted to physically walk back into the ICU and give everyone hugs.”
Three months later, the day before Walt went home, he proudly walked into the ICU. Walt said he had a promise to fulfill as he walked into a room full of teary-eyed caregivers and greeted them with hugs of appreciation.
After a five month stay at SOMC, Walt is now home and in full recovery. He is thankful for his second family and for the excellent care he received at SOMC.
“Walt is one of our success stories at SOMC,” Dr. Sadiq Al-Nakeeb, critical care intensivist at SOMC, said. “And we are very proud of that.”