Chris Ward was diagnosed with COVID-19 the day before Thanksgiving. He had a headache, a rarity for him, and got a rapid test to rule out the virus before the holiday.
By the day after Thanksgiving, his heart was racing and he spiked a fever, so he went to the hospital.
He didn’t leave until February.
After Ward was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, his fever hovered around 104.5 for two weeks. His oxygen levels dropped so low he had to be moved to the intensive care unit and placed on a ventilator for five days. He stayed in the ICU on oxygen for more than a month before moving back to the general COVID-19 unit and eventually, in early February, to the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where he had to relearn how to sit up, stand, walk — even talk.
“When he arrived, he had difficulty even moving in his bed,” said Kathleen Webler, Ward’s speech-language pathologist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. “He needed a lot of help not just from a strength perspective, but even the coordination of breathing and activity was difficult. Talking was difficult. The way he would describe it to us is he felt like he had just sprinted a mile and he just couldn’t catch his breath.”
“Those were the hardest weeks of my life,” Chris Ward said of rehab. “It was a lot of tough love. They said, ‘Look, we know when to push and we know when to stop.’ And it didn’t always line up with what I wanted. I wanted to lay back in the bed and they were like, ‘No. We’re getting you back out of the bed.’ And they were right. I just can’t say thank you enough to them.”
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