Sanford Health therapists help man recover from COVID-19

After being hospitalized for 104 days, David Fell is recovering at home

A senior Sanford Health patient smiles in sunglasses outside his home.

David Fell was in the hospital for 104 long, tiring days.

The Jackson, Minnesota native tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 10, 2020. A week later, he was hospitalized in Jackson.

“On the 18th, they transferred me to Sioux Falls. I was in Sioux Falls 72 days,” he recalled. He spent Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, he couldn’t see his family or any visitors.

Slow recovery

Over the course of the nearly three-month hospitalization, Fell very slowly recovered.

“The first challenge was to get weaned off of oxygen, and being able to sit up. If I were to sit up and dangle my feet, I’d pass out. I’d been flat on my back that long.

“They’d transfer me from my bed to a chair, and I’d spend two hours a day in the chair, getting used to sitting up.”

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Fell explained there were many “dark days” during his recovery. He’d make progress, then regress.

At one point, he developed a cyst on his lumbar vertebrae.

“They isolated a bacterium that was causing that cyst, and I was put on an IV antibiotic for 56 days. It worked, but it was slow. There were days when it was discouraging, but the staff wouldn’t let me be discouraged. They found something to praise me about, and that’s what kept me going,” said Fell.

Continuing to encourage

Once he was healthy enough, he was transferred back to Sanford Jackson Medical Center.

He worked with the physical and occupational therapists daily. Fell said he was so weak, he couldn’t remember how to do simple, everyday tasks.

“My OT came over from Worthington four mornings a week and got me doing things that a normal person would take for granted. Things like finding things in the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator, putting groceries away, getting dressed with a shirt, pants, shoes and socks. Things most people don’t give a second thought to. She had to teach me.”

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It was a long and tedious process. Fell said there were many times he felt discouraged, but his caregivers always found a way to keep his spirits high.

“I might fail miserably doing something, but the PT, OT, and nursing staff would always find something positive. Even if I only got about 5% of what they were hoping for, they would praise me and praise me for what I accomplished. It was never about the 95% that I didn’t get,” he said.

That positivity gave him hope and motivation to keep working.

“They’d challenge me to do things I didn’t think I could do, but every day improvement came,” Fell said.

‘I’m eternally grateful’

As he slowly improved, more hope came that he’d go home soon.

But, he didn’t know how he would.

“The PT and OT had my wife drive out to the ambulance bay, and I practiced getting into and out of a car. It’s scary not knowing how to do it,” he said.

Then, the day came. After 104 days, Fell was finally able to go home to his wife.

“I’m eternally grateful. At one point I told my children they didn’t expect me to live, but I made it. I thanked them, and they’d say I did all the work, and yes that’s true, but without them I wouldn’t have done it. Without them I would probably be a patient in a nursing home right now.

“Sanford kept me alive and got me moving again.”

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Posted In Allied Health, Coronavirus, Jackson, Rehabilitation & Therapy, Rural Health, Sioux Falls

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