Covid-19 survivor returns home to Berthoud
By Amber McIver-Traywick
After nearly three weeks in the hospital, two of those spent sedated and on a ventilator, while fighting COVID-19, Mark Gomes, 41, is home. His wife Brittany and children Tate, 13, and Gia, 8 waited, quarantined at their home in Berthoud hoping for the reunion that finally took place last Thursday.
“I think for us right now, we are enjoying being a family and grateful to have this time together, he is super weak still but standing and walking, every day is a little better than the last,” Brittany said of Mark’s return home.
Mark’s symptoms began Monday, March 9, when he came home from his job as a bank manager at Key Bank in Loveland feeling like he might be coming down with a cold. Within 24 hours a low-grade temperature presented with chest tightness and exhaustion. He stayed home from work for the rest of that week thinking he just needed rest to recover, but the situation continued to deteriorate.
On Friday, March 13, Mark went to the doctor. They asked if he had been traveling, which he hadn’t. They tested him for the flu, which came back negative. The diagnosis was a respiratory illness and he was advised to stay hydrated and take over-the-counter medications to help with symptoms.
Over the weekend Brittany encouraged her husband, who has lived with asthma the majority of his life, to go to the doctor on Monday if his symptoms didn’t improve.
With breathing becoming more difficult and feeling more lethargic Mark went back to the doctor on Monday. The doctors decided to send Mark to be tested for the coronavirus. While being tested the doctor listened to Mark’s lungs and sent him for a chest x-ray. Brittany recalled, “That night the doctor called me at home and said his lungs are really really bad and I would prefer you take him to the hospital.”
On the evening of Monday, the 16th Brittany took him to the emergency room in Fort Collins. He was badly in need of oxygen. “He was there for a couple of days, he wasn’t progressing and his need for oxygen was increasing, he wasn’t turning the corner as the doctors had hoped,” Brittany said, who is herself a nurse and very aware of how the situation was unfolding.
After a CT-Scan that showed the extent of issues with Mark’s lungs, the doctor confirmed this was, in fact, COVID-19 they were battling. Brittany was able to visit the hospital the night he was sedated and placed on the breathing machine, the last time she would be in the same room with him until he was released as the hospital no longer would allow visitors to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
“It was as bad as it could have got,” Brittany said of the escalation of Mark’s symptoms during his time on the ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley where he was transferred.
Brittany and her children were required to stay quarantined at home as they too had been exposed to the virus. Every day they waited for a brief update on Mark’s condition from doctors and nurses overrun with patients also in critical condition. “I’m super grateful for the support of all the doctors and nurses that took care of him it was amazing,” Brittany said of the team who cared for her husband.
“The hardest part was just not being there, I couldn’t touch him, I couldn’t see him, I couldn’t call him,” she said through rising emotion. Brittany said the nurses went “above and beyond” when they used their own cell phones to allow Mark to hear his wife’s voice even while he was sedated and eventually used facetime for the two to communicate once he was alert and able to.
There were several ups and downs as Mark’s life hung in the balance. The doctors at one point removed the ventilator but soon had to put him back on it as his body wasn’t well enough to handle breathing on its own.
Then finally, April 2, having been off the ventilator for a few days, Mark was deemed well enough to be discharged from the hospital.
Still unable to enter the hospital Brittany sent up a bag of clothes for her husband to change in to. As he was rolled out into the lobby in a wheelchair, weak from the catastrophic ordeal, he stood to embrace his wife, “I was crying, I think he was crying, it was something neither of us knew would happen, I said I love you, he said I love you, it was awesome, it’s something we’ll never forget,” Brittany said.
Mark has a long road to recovery as doctors have told the Gomes that for every day Mark was on the ventilator to expect four days to begin to regain what he lost.
Family members of the Gomes set up a GoFundMe page last month to help support the family while Mark and Brittany were unable to work and pay medical bills. To date, the effort has raised $32,890. In an update on the page, Brittany said, “I am truly humbled by the support that has been given to Mark and our family…it’s hard for me to even verbalize how extremely thankful we are to have this community of family and friends near and far.”
Though they aren’t sure on the details just yet the couple said their future plans include doing whatever they can to bring awareness and support for the local medical community during this crisis and beyond.
The couple urges people to take the situation seriously and do their part to stop the spread, Brittany said, “People need to know this could happen to anybody Mark is a healthy guy…they have to stay home, I never would have imagined us being in this situation but I know firsthand the importance of staying home and allowing the health care system to not be overwhelmed.”
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