Local COVID patient still recovering after 4.5-month hospital stay

Sue and John Whitney. Sue Whitney is still recovering from COVID-19 she was diagnosed with on Jan. 1. CONTRIBUTED
Sue and John Whitney. Sue Whitney is still recovering from COVID-19 she was diagnosed with on Jan. 1. CONTRIBUTED

The experience has a local couple urging people to get vaccinated.

A local woman is still on the road to recovery after 4.5 months in the hospital from COVID-19.

Sue Whitney of Washington Twp. had been carefully taking precautions this winter, such as masking and scaling back customer interactions at the lighting retail and repair store she and her husband run. Originally from England, she had been following the early impact on the country and Europe.

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But she tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 1 and was admitted to Soin Medical Center. John Whitney, her husband, also caught the virus and had to isolate at home.

He said having to be at home getting phone calls instead of being by her side at the hospital was a nightmare.

Sue was intubated three times and underwent a tracheotomy. She has difficulty remembering much of her stay, particularly the first months.

John said he was impressed with the staff and said it is heroic what they went through. He pointed out that some of the people working with COVID patients at the hospital were in their 20s and have now seen a lot of death at a young age.

“They deserve recognition because they are the heroes of the moment with what they’ve been through,” he said.

While the staff were often busy, John said they also took the time to call him to explain updates and staff helped with little details that helped Sue feel more normal.

“They would do things like do her hair and doing nails and stuff like that because they knew she couldn’t do it herself,” he said.

COVID-19 patients in general tend to have longer stays than the average hospital patient. According to Dr. Jeffrey Weinstein with Kettering Health, around two to three weeks would be a long stay for a COVID-19 patient. Anything beyond that is rare, with occasional Kettering Health patients staying longer than a month.

Sue was finally able to leave the hospital on May 14. The medical staff who had gotten to know her after her long stay surprised her by giving her a sendoff. They hung a banner above the outside of her door with messages wishing her well.

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“It was very emotional,” said Sue. “I didn’t expect it. It was just lovely seeing all those faces that had looked after me saying goodbye.”

Sue is now learning to walk again and going to physical therapy five days a week.

“It’s a totally different way of life as well at the moment. I can’t go out on my own, I have to rely on people to take me anywhere,” she said.

The couple has been urging people to get vaccinated to avoid the risks from the virus.

John said before they were eligible for the vaccine they had been a little on the fence with some questions because it was so new, but now they are now urging people to get vaccinated when they can. John is now fully vaccinated and Sue has antibodies and is recovering but plans to get it.

“After what we’ve been through, I wouldn’t hesitate,” John said.

Health officials, who are urging people to get vaccines, also have growing concerns about patients who had mild symptoms later developing long-haul symptoms.

A University of Washington study published this year found 32.7% of COVID-19 outpatients developed long-haul symptoms and 31.3% of hospitalized patients became long haulers.

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