From the Brink to a Return to Family

Gabe and Jeanie Gomez feel that they can’t thank Eskenazi Health and its caring staff members enough. In November, COVID-19 struck Gabe hard. The disease nearly cost him his life. Instead of Jeanie losing her husband and their three kids not having a father, Gabe is getting healthier by the day. He credits his Eskenazi Health care team for his return to where he prefers to be – home.

“If it wasn’t for Eskenazi Health, I wouldn’t be here spending time with my three kids and my wife,” Gabe said.

After a visit to the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department, Gabe was immediately admitted to the hospital, where he underwent 18 days of treatment in the
ICU. Although the experience was stressful for Gabe, Jeanie and the rest of their family, they recognized the challenges faced by frontline staff members who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. That’s why they returned to Eskenazi Health in January to personally thank Gabe’s care team. They wanted those staff members to know how much their efforts are appreciated and to say the impact of their care did not go unnoticed.

On Nov. 7, Gabe was diagnosed with COVID-19. By Nov. 11, his difficulty to breathe prompted an emergency department visit. Staff taking his vitals revealed a dangerously low oxygen level.

“A whole army of people came in and got me hooked up to machines and started monitoring where I was at,” he recalled.

After being admitted, Gabe was transferred to the ICU. He received oxygen, but his condition failed to improve. He compared his oxygen levels to running back-to-back marathons, but he was lying still in bed. His body was starving for oxygen despite the ongoing medical assistance.

“I was unable to keep my breath,” Gabe said. “I couldn’t come off of the oxygen.”

This is when his care team recommended a ventilator. Initially, it was a hard no for the military veteran who has seen combat overseas. He disliked anything being placed on his face and feared the ventilator would seal his fate. After a comforting and educational discussion with a nurse, Gabe agreed to be sedated and go on the ventilator to give his lungs a chance to recover.

Eleven days later, Gabe emerged with improved lungs. He was finally able to move from his bed to a nearby chair. He watched TV, picked items from the room service menu and started to feel like a person again.

“I was tired of lying in bed, tired of doing nothing,” said Gabe, who intends to never take certain daily activities for granted again.

The movement from bed to chair began the process of reaching discharge. He prides himself on providing for himself and his family. COVID-19 took that away, and he wanted it back.

“That was part of my motivation to get moving,” Gabe said.

The other part was his return home. Upon being moved from the ICU on the sixth floor to Acuity Adaptable on the 10th floor, he spent most of the night slowly walking to and
from the bed, the couch and the chair. He knew being able to complete tasks on his own would be important for discharge. Jeanie visited the next day and was surprised and overjoyed when her husband shuffled up to her on his own.

“I cried so hard,” she said of seeing her husband’s progress. “When he stood up and was able to hold me, that was my moment where I felt like everything was going to be fine.”

Jeanie had already endured several days of not being able to hear her husband’s voice. She was also on her own at home with the children, two of whom had contracted COVID-19. She went several days without being able to visit Gabe. She had to rely on phone conversations with his care team for updates.

“It was so scary and terrifying, but with the nurses he had, they were always so sweet, so kind, so informational,” she said. “I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that they weren’t taking care of him. I really felt like he was going to be fine. The nurses all made me feel like he was going to be fine.”

Jeanie was grateful to be a part of the care. She was able to clean and apply lotion to Gabe’s hands and feet. The care team made her feel that the care being administered is not only about the patient. It’s about the patient and the patient’s family.

Upon discharge, Gabe spent much of December rehabilitating at home by completing short walks, doing light chores and finding the balance between being active and not overdoing it. He spent Christmas with those he loves and returned to work as a warehouse supervisor on Jan. 2. He still gets short of breath on occasion and tired more easily than prior to COVID-19, but he anticipates a full recovery. In the meantime, he monitors his oxygen and rests when it drops below a certain level. His stamina improves each day. His gratitude for life, loved ones and excellent patient care, however, remains at the maximum level.

“My family is the reason I go to work and do what I do,” Gabe said. “Eskenazi Health, the staff there and their training helped me get all that back and for that I am forever grateful.”

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