Bismarck man shares COVID journey after 29-day hospital stay

Ken Sambor reunited with two nurses and raised $3K for COVID-19 response fund

COVID-19 patient in a wheelchair leaves hospital with nurses in full PPE

It was supposed to be a celebratory trip when Ken Sambor and his curling team got on an airplane March 9.

Sambor coaches his daughter’s curling team and they were in-flight to the National Curling Championship in Laurel, Maryland.

He started feeling sick the night before the team flew back home. It wasn’t shortly after Sambor was back in Bismarck that he went in and got tested for COVID-19.

The test came back positive.

“I went back home then after testing positive and basically couldn’t get out of bed,” Sambor said. “I was running a temperature from 101 degrees to 103 degrees and had a dry cough.”

When his symptoms didn’t improve, his daughter took him to the Sanford Health Emergency Department in Bismarck.

Hospitalized with COVID-19

“Basically from there until about April 14 I have very little memory,” Sambor said. “I remember someone saying to me that they were going to need to intubate me.”

Sambor was on a ventilator for 11 days and spent a total of 29 days in the hospital. During his stay, he formed some great relationships with the front line staff at Sanford who cared for him.

“These are angels,” Sambor said. “They’re not just professionals with great skills and good souls. They’re brave. I mean they risked their health every time they came into my room and sometimes it was just to come in and adjust my pillow.”

To celebrate his heroes, Sambor made a Guardian Angel gift in their names to the Sanford Health Foundation. He’s also taken to social media, encouraging others to empower the lifesaving work happening at Sanford today.

So far, he’s raised more than $3,000 for the Emerging Threats Fund. 100% of those gifts will support areas of greatest need like enhanced training, personal protective equipment, innovative methods of health care delivery and more.

Reuniting with his health care heroes

Earlier this month, Mandie Haman and Julie Hagan, two of the many front-line workers who cared for Sambor during his stay in the hospital, came to see him at his home in Bismarck.

“You really form some amazing bonds and relationships with them,” said Mandie Haman, a nurse at Sanford Health in Bismarck. “You’re not just in there being their nurse; you’re kind of that lifeline for them. Because they don’t get to have their family and their friends in the room and you get to see them from a guy that can’t sit up to a guy that’s walking. And to see that progression along the way is just an honor.”

Sambor even shared one of his favorite songs with the nurses while he was in the hospital. The same song he sends his wife every year for their anniversary.

“He actually told me about John Prine, who is one of his favorite singers and passed away from COVID,” said Julie Hagen. “And he got a little emotional, and I’d never heard of John Prine, and he had his phone on the bedside table so he asked me to grab it. And then he sang ‘Inspite of Ourselves’ to me.”

Which is the same song Sambor sings to his former caregivers today at his home. But this time in a much quieter and more peaceful setting.

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Posted In Bismarck, Coronavirus, Faces of Sanford Health, Foundation, Health Care Heroes

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