ROCK SPRINGS – Cory DuPape credits the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit staff at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County with saving his life.
At 53, DuPape was confident in his good health. He worked out five or six times a week and rarely got even a cold. “I have never smoked, never done an illegal drug, and I rarely drink,” he said.
When COVID-19 hit DuPape on Dec. 17, it launched with a vengeance.
Always following the recommended protocols, he was surprised he contracted the disease at all. His employer requires all employees to use a mask and sanitize their facility multiple times a day. Despite his best efforts self-isolating at home, his wife, Nichole, also tested positive for COVID-19 but with lesser symptoms.
“I had 10 days of super high fever, a pounding headache, my eyeballs felt like they were bursting out my head. I lost my sense of taste, but not my smell. I was basically comatose,” said DuPape, branch manager at a local business.
“On the 11th day, when the fever broke, it hit my lungs,” he said. “I couldn’t breathe.” His wife called the ER and explained the situation. Instead of bringing him to the hospital, they worked with ER staff to set up the oxygen concentrator they still had in their home that had been used by another family member.
After weeks of struggling with his COVID-19 symptoms and a week on oxygen, DuPape thought he finally was turning a corner.
“My breathing was good. I was getting stronger,” he said. “On the 18th day I was up and sitting in the chair; I took off the oxygen.” His oxygen saturation registered at about 92 or 93.
Thinking he was on the mend, he got in his hot tub that morning. “I was rubbing my knee. I felt a vein on the back of my left knee that was sticking up and rock hard,” he said.
DuPape called his wife at work. Her first thought was “blood clot.”
Nichole DuPape then called the Sweetwater Memorial ER and spoke with Registered Nurse Shelly Lloyd. After their discussion, she insisted her husband go to the ER. DuPape was reluctant, but went. He was adamant he would not stay in the hospital.
A scan confirmed the blood clots in his leg. When the doctor asked about any other lingering symptoms, DuPape said he was still spitting up some “frothy stuff with a little bit of blood in it.” A scan showed clots in both lungs. The ER crew began talking to him about admission to Sweetwater Memorial’s ICU Unit.
“I didn’t want to be admitted to the hospital,” DuPape said. “I told them I didn’t want to stay. Give me some blood thinners and send me home. The doctor came in a couple of times to talk to me. He warned me it was a bad idea. But I told them I wanted to go home. So, they started processing me.”
Most of his resistance stemmed from the sadness of losing friends to COVID-19 after being admitted to the ICU. The thought of it scared him.
Lloyd, an Emergency Room nurse of nearly four years, took her turn at speaking with him about his condition. “She talked to me for a long time,” DuPape said. “She’s a friend. We’ve known each other for a long time.”
The conversation sparked something. He started thinking more about the consequences. It helped that his wife had their kids and his best friend call him. “They all called and yelled at me,” he said.
Finally, DuPape relented. The ER crew began the admission process. He ended up spending three days in the ICU. He said one nurse told him he had every symptom that had been reported since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“I’m still not 100 percent,” he said. “It really affected my lungs. I’m still a little weak. I get tired easily. I’ll be on blood thinners for at least six months, and possibly for the rest of my life.”
Looking back, letting Sweetwater Memorial take care of him was the right thing to do. He is thankful to everyone who cared for him.
“I’m pretty sure (Lloyd) saved my life that day with her caring and advice,” DuPape said. “Literally, everything she did was above and beyond.”
She wasn’t the only one.
Stephanie Hartford, a medical/surgical unit nurse, was working in the ICU that day. “Everything about her is above and beyond,” DuPape said. “She made me feel as if I was the most important patient in the hospital. My level of anxiety about being up there was unbearable, but her personality and level of care made me relax and feel comfortable.”
He praised ICU Nurse Afton Smith. “Everything she does is above and beyond and professional,” he said. “I felt very well taken care of.”
Staci Smith, a registered respiratory therapist, is also on his list. She took care of the family’s contact tracing, checked in on him often and updated Nichole DuPape daily while he was in ICU.
“She was not even assigned to me,” he said. “She took her time to come see me and talk with me and reassure me that things were going the way they should. She even called my wife to keep her updated – all above and beyond.”
“I know there are some nurses who are just doing their job,” he said. “This wasn’t the case. I would like to thank the hospital and these amazing people for taking such good care of me and just for being the people that they are.”