Utah man returns home after spending 223 days in the ICU fighting COVID-19

Sep 2, 2021, 2:08 PM | Updated: Apr 29, 2022, 11:15 am
utah man spends 223 days in icu with COVID...
Thomas Kearl leaving Intermountain Health Care after 223 days in the ICU. Photo: Intermountain Health Care

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man says his 223-day ICU ordeal started as a family get together, and ended with 10 out 12 of his family members testing positive for COVID-19.

Thomas Kearl said he was also sick, but the first test at a hospital came back negative.  He was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and sent home.

After four days with increasingly worse symptoms, Kearl says he woke up with a temperature of 105 degrees and couldn’t walk.  His wife and son drove him to the emergency room on January 11, 2021 where he was told he had a false negative on the first test.

Thomas Kearl leaving Intermountain Health Care on August 23, 2021 after 223 days in the ICU.

Then he said things got worse.  “On the second day doctors and nurses couldn’t keep my oxygen levels up.  So, they said the only thing to do was put me on a ventilator.”

“Things got fuzzy after that.”  said Kearl.  “I remember at one point waking up on a steel bed surrounded by ice to keep my temperature down.”

Utah man describes 223-day COVID-19 ICU stay

In a news conference with doctors from Intermountain Health Care, Kearl said he suffered every complications known from COVID-19.

“I had a couple of viral pneumonias, then a bacterial pneumonia.  Then I had renal failure then I had … I went septic, then I had Celiac so I ended up having an ileus — which I didn’t even know what meant.  Then I had MRSA and then I had pseudomonas — which is the mystery killer bacteria that they don’t know how to fight.” Kearl stated.

On top of all that, Kearl had a heart attack and had to be revived.

A rock and a hard place

At one point, doctors removed Kearl’s tracheal tube to see if he could breathe on his own.  But they had bad news.

“There are two paths: we can take all the pain away and let you pass in peace or we can put the trach tube back,” doctors told Kearl. 

Kearl stated, in a broken voice, he did not want another “trach,” saying he doesn’t recommend them to anyone.  But he also said he didn’t want to die.  And if it was a choice between dying and the tracheal tube, he’d go with being intubated again.

The Utah resident said he saw ‘behind the veil’ several times during his stay in the ICU fighting COVID.  He prayed often and thought about his family.

“I have too much live for.  I love my family, I love my kids, I love my three grandkids; so I kept fighting,” he said. 

On Tuesday, August 23, 2021, after 223 days in the hospital, Kearl was able to leave.  But his doctors say while the Utah resident no longer needs ICU care for COVID, he does still need up to 15 liters of oxygen a day just to move. The road ahead, they said, is still a tough one.

Today’s Top Stories


costco samples senior hours...
Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN Business

The mysterious companies behind Costco’s Kirkland Signature and Trader Joe’s O’s

As prices surge, store brands -- also known as private labels, white labels or generic brands -- have become an even more attractive option for inflation-fatigued shoppers who are looking to switch from pricier name brands. Store brands can be anywhere from 10% to 50% cheaper.
21 hours ago
Utah COVID update...
Michael Lee, writer

Long-term COVID symptoms persist in 1 in 8 adult patients, study says

The study, published in peer-review journal The Lancet, looked at groups of adults diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as those who were uninfected, and examined whether they developed new or worsening disease symptoms
21 hours ago
Utah lake bloom algal...
Simone Seikaly

Utah Lake algal bloom still at harmful levels says DEQ

Utah Lake visitors are asked not to drink the water near an algal bloom, to avoid swimming and water skiing, and to thoroughly clean fish that are caught.
2 days ago
Utah Clean Air Partnership urges Utahns to take steps toward cleaner air....
Martha Harris

“Live to Breathe” campaign encourages steps for clean air

Utah Clean Air Partnership's "Live to Breathe" campaign encourages Utahns to take meaningful steps toward cleaner air.
2 days ago
monkeypox vaccine...

US to declare health emergency over monkeypox outbreak

The announcement will free up federal money and other resources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body.
3 days ago
Researchers at Yale University say they have been able to restore blood circulation and other cellu...
Katie Hunt, CNN

Research in pigs shakes up what we know about dying

With more research, the cutting-edge technique could someday potentially help preserve human organs for longer, allowing more people to receive transplants.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Utah man returns home after spending 223 days in the ICU fighting COVID-19