On March 9, Chris Paduch got sick. He couldn’t get out of bed and had a 102 fever that lasted five days. When his fever broke, he had trouble breathing and called his primary care doctor, who prescribed a steroid and an antibiotic. However, Paduch still didn’t improve, and his wife, Jill Peterson, also began to feel sick.
Although they spent their time at their Haddam home because businesses and schools were closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, their family physician suspected they were both COVID-19 positive, and Paduch, who was very weak, was admitted to Middlesex Hospital.
When they arrived at the hospital, Paduch was evaluated outside of the Emergency Department in a mobile trailer. When the staff measured his oxygen saturation level, it was 64. Since the normal range is 95 to 100, the staff wondered if the machine was broken and rushed Paduch inside, leaving Peterson to return home alone.
After a chest X-ray and a CT scan, Paduch learned that he had pneumonia and pulmonary thrombosis, or blood clots, in both lungs. He remembers sleeping most of the time while at the hospital. “I felt like I was in a science fiction movie,” he says. “I didn’t see anyone who wasn't in full PPE (personal protective equipment).”
Paduch was diagnosed with COVID-19, and Peterson later tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, an indication that she had, or was exposed to, the virus.
Paduch was terrified of being intubated and placed on a ventilator. However, he wasn’t getting better, and the pulmonologist called Peterson to let her know that a ventilator was absolutely necessary.
“After Chris was intubated, the doctor called me every day and was very straight with me,” Peterson says. “It was really hard to believe that the illness was as bad as it was. Chris would improve slightly and then get worse. I asked the doctors, if it came to it, if I would be allowed a final visit in person.”
Peterson recalls being able to see Paduch for the first time when the nurses connected with her virtually. He was intubated and unconscious, but the nurses urged her to talk to him through the video call. Peterson was able to do this nearly every day of his hospital stay.
“I absolutely felt that the Middlesex team was doing everything they could for Chris, and I felt that they were personally invested in me,” Peterson says. “The doctors were always one step ahead of the disease.”
Paduch was on a ventilator in Middlesex Hospital’s Critical Care Unit for 23 days. During this time, his kidneys failed, and he was on dialysis. Eventually, Paduch did improve and was removed from the ventilator.
“When they woke me up after being intubated, I had no idea where I was,” Paduch says. “When they told me I was at Middlesex Hospital, I could hardly believe it. “It was very hard to speak, and I couldn’t move my fingers. I wasn’t able to swallow properly so I was given thick liquids. When I was able to have ice chips and a glass of water, I couldn’t have been happier.”
Paduch was eventually strong enough to be transferred to a medical unit at Middlesex Hospital and, later, was discharged to a rehab hospital to continue his recovery.
“Everyone at Middlesex Hospital was wonderful,” he says. “They were so good to me. They told me I was a miracle. I felt like a celebrity in that hospital. I asked if there was any chance of seeing the doctors that saved me, and I was able to see my pulmonologist. Even though he was dressed in full PPE, I could tell that he was smiling from ear to ear. I told him that seeing me survive COVID-19 he had to feel like he hit a walk-off home run at the bottom of the ninth.”
After nearly two months of being in a hospital bed, Paduch is now home and is working on a limited schedule. He says his muscle pain has improved but that he still has tremendous joint pain.
“I’m living life,” he says. “I do what I can—a lot of times I over do it. It’s a case of gradual improvement. I was told that for every day in the hospital, it will take me a few days to recover.”
Paduch expects that it will be November before he feels like himself again.
“I am so grateful for all of the measures that they took to save me,” he says.
Middlesex Health is proud to offer a unique Lifestyle Medicine Program that is designed to help individuals address their risk for chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, prediabetes and high blood pressure through diet, exercise, stress management and social connectivity.