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After 118 days in the hospital with COVID-19, one man is finally home just in time for the holidays

Nov 22, 2020, 8:28 PM
holidays COVID-19...
In this undated image from video provided by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, scientists work with a bioreactor at a company facility in New York state, for efforts on an experimental coronavirus antibody drug. The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 authorized the use of the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. drug to try to prevent patients with mild-to-moderate disease from worsening and needing hospitalization. It's given as a one-time treatment through an IV and is still going through more testing to establish its safety and effectiveness. (Regeneron via AP)
(Regeneron via AP)

KANSAS CITY (CNN) — No one expected him home for the holidays — but after 118 days in the hospital with COVID-19, Darell Slater will spend Thanksgiving with his family.

Slater, 71, was first diagnosed with COVID-19 on July 13 along with his wife, his family said. After two weeks of quarantine, she recovered but he did not.

Slater’s daughter, Kim Cochran, told CNN that the family became concerned when her sister went to mow their parents’ lawn and noticed that Slater wasn’t acting like himself.

The family called their physician and he suggested they call the paramedics because Slater also suffers from Parkinson’s disease and Rheumatoid arthritis. The arrived paramedics and checked on Slater, but they chose not to take him to the hospital.

Doctors said there was a chance Slater wouldn’t make it

The next day, on July 26, his oxygen levels dropped, so Cochran said the family decided to take him to the emergency room in St. Luke’s east in Lee’s Summit, Kansas City, where he was diagnosed with double pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

“About a week later, after putting him on the ventilator, they told us that he was the sickest patient in the hospital … and there was nothing else they could do for him there,” Cochran said.

It was then recommended that he go to another hospital in Kansas City, St. Luke’s Hospital – Plaza, but the doctors told the family that there was a chance he wouldn’t make it through the transport.

“So we said no, leave him where he is at, but our family physician said, ‘If they give you a glimmer of hope, you take it. If he dies in transport, that’s God’s calling,’ so we decided to let him be transported,” Cochran said.

His family prayed for him to pull through

Slater survived the transport and a day later, on August 6, he was put on ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a therapy that adds oxygen to the blood and pumps it through the body.

“They said Covid just went in like a bomb and destroyed his lungs,” Cochran said. “Two weeks later, every time they tried to remove him from ECMO he would crash immediately.”

Then one day the family spoke with Slater via video conference and encouraged him to be strong. They told him how many people were praying for him to pull through.

The nurse called the family an hour later to tell them they had turned the ECMO off and Slater was breathing and doing everything on his own.

“Every day we would call and just get stable, stable,” Cochran said.

Then, Cochran said the hospital called and told her mother that she would need to have a conversation with the doctor at the end of the week.

“It totally blew us away. Because at this point they never led us one direction or another,” Cochran said. “We always knew he was still critical… she said they had never had anyone as sick as him make it past this point.”

Slater tested negative in September

A few days later Cochran, her sisters and her mother went to dinner to discuss Slater’s health.

“We had all decided we weren’t giving up,” Cohran said. “We didn’t feel like it was time. And then our waitress came to the table and her name tag was Hope, and we knew from that point on that he was going to be okay.”

The next week, Cochran’s mother called the doctor. The family found out that they originally intended to discuss turning off Slater’s life support, but in a number of days, he had turned the corner.

The doctors were still cautious because of how sick he was, but they knew he could be okay.

On September 18, Slater finally tested negative for COVID-19, and he started to be slowly removed from all of the machines. He was moved to a medical rehab facility, where he would remain for the next seven weeks.

Slater: ‘Just don’t give up hope’

After 96 days, Slater finally came off of the ventilator.

“It’s just a medical miracle,” Cochran said. “He was moved to another facility for two weeks and they told us there was no way he would be home before Christmas.”

Slater was wheeled out of the hospital on Friday, where his waiting family was waiting for him.

“When they said no one had ever made it past that point, someone has to set the bar, and he set the bar,” Cochran said.

Slater helped to tell his story alongside his daughter and had one thing to say about the experience.

“Just don’t give up hope,” Slater told CNN.

The family said they are thankful to all of the hospital staff that helped take care of their dad.

“We just want to tell the story because we don’t want anyone to give up,” Cochran said. “You just can’t give up.”

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After 118 days in the hospital with COVID-19, one man is finally home just in time for the holidays