Tim Crory, a 60-year-old from Townsend, is grateful for the care he received at Emerson after he was stricken with COVID-19 in April, 2020. During his hospital stay, he recognized the benefits of a community hospital. In the following paragraphs, he tells the story of his diagnosis, care and recovery.
Starting April 17, 2020, I had a constant headache unlike anything I had before. A few days later, I knew something was very wrong with me. I was at work and told my boss I was going to get tested for COVID-19. I have type 2 diabetes and grew up with asthma, but I have not had an asthma issue in more than 10 years and was not on medication for it. Whatever was happening hit me real fast.
I got tested at a drive-through site in Lowell and heard back a few hours later that I was positive. I quarantined in my house and my wife was great throughout the whole experience. She brought me food through our bedroom door and we wore masks and took a lot of precautions. By the end of the week, I was so short of breath I could not carry a conversation.
On April 27, my wife called an ambulance, and they took me to Emerson upon my request. They were planning to take me to a closer hospital, but I grew up in Littleton, my primary care physician is Dr. [James] Cohen at Westford Internal Medicine, and I trust the care at Emerson.
A few hours after arriving at the Emergency Department, I was admitted directly to Emerson’s Critical Care Unit [CCU]. I was aware of what was going on, but things got a little foggy at times. I remember the doctors and nurses talked about intubating me. However, the day before the planned intubation, I started to get better. My doctor said that the proning* helped keep me off a ventilator and helped me get better. I was on oxygen all the time and slowly began to recover. [Editor’s note: Proning is a medical technique to turn a patient from their back to their stomach. Some studies show it can increase oxygen flow to patients with COVID-19, help reduce the need for a ventilator, and help them recover.]
After I was well enough to leave the CCU, I spent time on North 6, a medical floor that was caring for COVID-19 patients during the peak of the pandemic. I spent a few nights in a negative air pressure room to prevent the spread of airborne diseases, and then I was moved to a regular room.
Finally, I was feeling better and was transferred to Emerson’s rehab floor, known as the TCU [Transitional Care Unit]. There, I received physical therapy and weaned off oxygen. After a few days on the TCU, I was up and walking. I was happy that I did not have to go to another facility and could recover at Emerson. I had a roommate in the TCU I got to know pretty well — he grew up in the area and we knew a lot of people in common, which was comforting when you are sick in the hospital and can connect with others.
During this time, no visitors were allowed in the hospital to prevent spread of the virus. I did not see my wife until I was discharged 29 days after. Emerson was great — they set me up with an iPad on a stand created from an IV pole. It was wheeled into my room so I could see my wife and our three sons. Seeing and hearing them on the iPad raised my spirits and helped me feel better.
When I was discharged on May 25, the Emerson team celebrated me going home with a “Code Happy.” As I was wheeled out of the hospital, my doctors, nurses, and other staff cheered me on as they clapped to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams to send me off. Unexpectedly, my sister-in law saw me leaving as she was coming into the hospital for an appointment. My wife was at the hospital entrance ready to take me home — we had not seen each other since the day I left in the ambulance. It was very emotional.
Today, I feel great. I do a lot of walking and went camping and biking with my family in July. My lungs are clear. I am back at work where we are constantly cleaning, wearing masks, and taking the pandemic very seriously. You cannot take it for granted. People think it is over, but you cannot take it lightly — it is a real thing.
I learned the real meaning of a community hospital during my long stay at Emerson. Toward the end of my care, as I was feeling better, it was a nice situation. I got to know everyone — even the woman from nutrition who called me every day to order my meals. The people who cleaned my room were kind — everyone was.
My neighbor is a nurse at Emerson. She visited my wife and brought me things from home, which meant a lot. I see her now when I am out mowing my lawn and we are happy to see each other healthy, outside the hospital. Another nurse at Emerson went to school with my son; she was a friendly face, too. I hope to never go through this again, but I could not be happier with the treatment at Emerson. Thank you for bringing me back from COVID-19 and showing me the meaning of community.
Pictured in the photo, from left: pulmonologist Julian Lel, MD, and critical care nurse Michele Fremault, RN, with Tim Crory and his wife, Sandy. Tim returned to Emerson this past summer to thank his medical team, some of whom are shown in the photo.