Close to dying from COVID


GREENFIELD — When Kevin Jennings lost his mother to COVID-19 he hoped that would be the last of the pandemic’s wrath on his loved ones.

If there’s one thing the coronavirus has proven over the past two years, it’s that it is persistent. One week after his mother’s funeral, everyone in Kevin’s family tested positive.

His wife, Holly, was sick for about 24 hours, and his daughter lost her sense of taste and smell. Kevin’s experience started equally mild, but on day 10, he was struggling to breathe and told his wife she needed to call someone. Kevin’s wife called 911. When the EMTs arrived, they checked his blood oxygen level with a pulse oximeter. It is recommended you call a health care provider for a reading under 95 percent. Kevin’s reading was at 45 percent.

“The EMTs thought the reader was broken, so they went and got another one,” he said. “But it said the same thing: 45 percent.”

Jennings spent the next 125 days in Cincinnati area hospitals. He was in an intensive care unit with lung damage and was unconscious for the first 45 to 50 days. Eventually, he moved to a rehab unit where he spent 22 days relearning how to walk. Though he was nowhere near ready to return home, he was approaching some big decisions as his discharge loomed.

“We didn’t know where to go,” he said. “It was looking like a nursing home may be the only option, which would seriously delay my rehab and healing. We started applying to every place we could on the east side of Cincinnati, and no one could take us.”

Jennings was not only still dealing with a life-altering battle with COVID-19 and in desperate need of rehab, but he also had a stage 4 wound on his lower back, which was infecting his spine and tailbone.

Holly discovered a connection with a former Adena Greenfield Medical Center rehab patient who had gone through a similar experience as her husband. Kevin and Holly reached out to Rob Clary, a nurse manager at Adena, and he accepted Kevin as a patient. Despite being three hours from the Jennings’ farm in Felicity, it was a blessing in disguise.

“God knew exactly what I needed when he sent me to Adena,” Kevin said. “I would not be here today in the shape I am without that wonderful staff.”

Kevin began three to four hours of daily rehab. He was making progress, but his blood work was still unsteady. He needed iron infusions and there was nerve damage in his left arm. Then there was that nagging wound. A plastic surgeon in Cincinnati wanted to do a flap closure procedure, which would have left Kevin laying on his side for six weeks with very little standing or walking to heal.

“I couldn’t do it physically,” he said. “If I had to spend six more weeks in bed, I would have been back at square one. I would have lost what I had gained. Luckily, Adena investigated an alternate option and offered us a choice. They let us decide and were supportive. Their thoughts and recommendations really helped, and the wound team went above and beyond to provide that extra care.”

All told, Kevin spent 168 days in seven hospitals. Adena not only helped restore his full range of motion, but also set up home care to help him continue his healing journey.

Kevin and Holly have stayed in touch with the Greenfield staff and recently reunited with the team. Everyone was shocked and thrilled by the progress Kevin has made.

“I thanked Rob for taking a chance on me,” Kevin said. “He told me that when he read my case, I was as close to dying as anybody he’d ever seen that survived.”

Today, Kevin is getting better and feeling stronger every day. He also feels blessed to have found Adena when he did.

“Adena was exactly the place I needed,” he said. “Everyone from the therapists and the nursing staff to the security guards and cooks made sure my family always had what they needed. It was just amazing. They’ve called several times since I’ve been discharged just to check on my progress. That little place out in the country will always have a very special place in my heart.”

This story was provided by Jason Gilham, communications manager, Adena Health System.

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