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Local

'So frightening': Sycamore man recounts nearly month-long stint in COVID-19 ward at Kishwaukee

Editor's Note: This is Part 1 of an ongoing series telling the stories of DeKalb County residents who have been diagnosed with and/or hospitalized with COVID-19. If you live in DeKalb County and would like you share your story with a Daily Chronicle reporter, email news@daily-chronicle.com.

SYCAMORE – Ron Floit of Sycamore said he went down to Tennessee to visit one of his four daughters on Sept. 11 to help paint her house the following Monday. While he was down there, he attended his grandson's high school football game and, as a devout Christian, attended church that Sunday.

As planned, Floit, 70, said he started painting on Sept. 14.

“And by the end of the day, I felt just extreme muscle soreness, like I’ve been beat up,” Floit said.

Little did he know he'd end up spending nearly a month battling the viral respiratory disease at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, as of Tuesday, there are only 70 available ICU beds out of 189 in the region known as Region 1, which includes DeKalb County, Winnebago and west to Whiteside counties.

Symptom progression

Floit said a fever of 102 degrees followed his soreness. The thought that he might have contracted COVID-19 did cross his mind, but only briefly, he said.

"My first thought was, am I getting this old? I can't do this work anymore," Floit said with a chuckle.

Floit said the symptoms then started to subside a little bit and he continued to plunk through the day. He was tired and sluggish by then, he said, but that was about it, and he continued working throughout the rest of that week in September.

Floit said he's not 100% sure exactly where he contracted the virus. However, he's got an inkling it happened while he was out of state down south.

“There weren't a lot of masks down there,” Floit said. " ... It's just matter of fact."

Floit said by the morning of Sept. 21, he felt really weak and wanted to go home to Illinois by that point. It wasn't until the next day, Sept. 22, that he realized he'd been putting his socks on for 45 minutes, he said, and knew something was up.

“I just can't [do it]," Floit recalled. "Something’s wrong.”

Floit made it back home and went to see a doctor Sept. 23, who told him to go to the emergency room. In the Kish ER, he got tested and was later confirmed positive for COVID-19, though he went back home that same day.

In the days that followed his COVID-19 positive test, Floit experienced up and down symptoms.

Throughout the rest of that week, Floit said, he quarantined away from his wife and was starting to feel better – so much so that he even took some walks and said he 'felt great.' But by Sunday, Sept. 27, he said he felt wiped out, couldn't even wake up for virtual church and became extremely weak and short of breath.

“And my breath was shallow by afternoon,” Floit said.

Floit said his wife, Mary again called the doctor Sept. 28, who told her he should return to the emergency room.

He didn't leave the hospital until nearly a month later.

From Sept. 28 until Oct. 20, Floit was admitted to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital and received care in the hospital's COVID-19 ward.

Hospitalized with COVID-19

From the ER, Floit said he was taken on a gurney to a hospital room where he had several IVs inserted into him, was given a lot of antibiotics, some blood thinner shots to help prevent blood clots and some steroids.

He described the atmosphere outside each of the COVID-19 patients' rooms: the canvas entrances outside, and nurses gearing up with full protective equipment every time they needed to enter one.

“It was kind of surreal,” Floit said.

Floit said one of the things that struck him most was when he was asked by doctors whether he and his wife had a will or other arrangements prepared just in case things took a turn for the worse and if that turn came quickly.

The loneliness in such a sterile treatment environment stuck out to him, he recalled.

“Your wife’s not with you, your kids aren’t with you … it doesn’t make a difference in here, your successes or failures in life," Floit said he remembered thinking while he was hospitalized. "Nothing really matters except if you’re ready to stand before God.”

Floit said he 'overtaken by sadness' thinking about how those who've died from the disease must have felt especially knowing that – not to be dramatic, he said – he could've lost his life, too.

“It’s just so frightening — I just felt so frightened for them,” Floit said.

Thankfully, Floit said, he never had to be put on a ventilator, and was able to leave the ward after 23 days of treatment.

“I’ve just never been through anything quite like it," Floit said. "It’s intense.”

Floit said what kept him going was constant encouragement and prayers from his four daughters and wife and text messages from Sycamore High School Class of 1968 friends.

"And that's been a great thing through this, just to see your family rally together with texts – with communication being what it is, you go back and forth and you can just see the fruits," Floit said.

Mary Floit, Ron's wife, agreed.

"Love," she chimed in. "Lots of love."

Ron Floit said the nurses and healthcare workers at Kish hospital that checked up on him were amazing, calling them 'quick, kind and they get work done.' He said he felt they were vigilant and precise and like they were 'there for just you,' even though they have so many patients to care for every day.

“The word ’nurse’ has completely changed for me," Floit said. "I just have the utmost respect for them and for all of the healthcare workers.”

Northwestern Medicine officials confirmed Wednesday that Floit was a patient at Kishwaukee Hospital from Sept. 28 to Oct. 20.

Shelly Fern, registered nurse and manager of patient care at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital, said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday that a thank-you letter they received from Floit was beautiful and it's posted on the nurse bulletin board for all to see.

"Our team is dedicated to providing our patients the very best care and they bring so much compassion to the bedside," Fern said in the statement. "To hear this patient share his experience is so meaningful. I think the world of my team. To see how they shine in a patient’s eyes, it makes my heart beat with pride."

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