Just the day before on March 26, his wife of 36 years had been admitted to Springfield Regional after a telehealth visit with her primary care physician.
“We were both in the bed and barely remember it,” Carol Tande, 69, later told a spokesperson with Mercy Health. Her physician had told her that she needed to go to the hospital. She remembers being very sick at the time.
In the days preceding her trip to the hospital’s emergency room, she had been in pain and both her and her husband had lost their appetite.
“There were a few days where I was having pain at night. My lower back was hurting and I had a really bad headache for five days,” Carol recalled.
She would spend the next 11 days at the hospital, where she found out that she had a virus that was part of a global pandemic. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that is spreading throughout the world.
“I thought I had the flu. I was just rolling in the bed hurting so bad. And I was lucky. I didn’t have the cough. My husband had the horrible, horrible cough. I am so happy that he does not remember some of it,” Carol later told a hospital spokesperson.
Her husband had accompanied her to the hospital. John had returned home that day only to be transported back less than 24 hours later after his oxygen levels fell dangerously low.
Debra Dozier, the director of clinical services at Springfield Regional, said John and Carol’s story shows the reality of COVID-19. The symptoms vary and it effects patients differently. In addition, patients may have other underlining conditions that share similar symptoms to COVID, she added. Those underlining conditions can also make it harder to recover.
She said though age seems to be a factor, as they have noticed more elderly people who are not doing well with the disease, it can effect anyone and it is hard to gauge what the outcome on the patient will be.
As Carol began recovering and eventually was discharged from the hospital after 11 days, her husband’s recovery would be much longer.
John’s condition got progressively worse. He remained on a ventilator when Carol was discharged.
“It was tough on the staff to watch her go home without her husband,” Dozier said.
Dozier said that as the virus progresses it can be especially hard for those taking care of the patient. When a patient is released, it is celebrated. Though the celebration is also for the staff, she added.
The Tande couple would later say that this period was the longest they had been away from each other during their marriage.
“I hope people take this seriously, because I would never in my life thought I would have had this. People that think this is just the flu, it’s not true,” Carol said. “I’ve never had anything like this. It’s very scary and when you see your loved one fighting for their life, that’s very scary, too.”
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John spent two weeks after being transported to the hosptial on a ventilator. After that it was another 10 days recovering before entering acute impatient rehabilitation, where he spent the last two weeks of his stay trying to rebuild his strength.
Dozier said she was told that John could barely lift his arm when he first started the rehabilitation phase of his treatment.
As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, Springfield Regional like many other hospitals added precautionary measures. That includes limiting visitors in the hospital and converting two units for COVID care.
Dozier said the opportunity for testing has increased as well compared to when John and Carol first came in at the end of March. Carol tested for COVID-19 after being admitted and John was tested after he returned to the hospital.
Patient requirements for testing have been scaled back and testing capabilities in the area have expanded since March and are expected to grow in the next few weeks, she added.
John was finally released from the hospital last week after being away from home for more than a month. As he made his way to his car, he was cheered on as staff applauded his recovery.
A member of his care team left him with these parting words, “All right Mr. Tande, it was an honor taking care of you.”
“Just being able to sit here and look at him is enough for me,” Carol told a hospital spokesperson of her husband’s release.
John will continue his physical therapy at home. Dozier said the fact that he is well enough to be home with is wife is “a triumph in its own right.”