First COVID-19 Patient's Amazing Recovery at Genesis - Genesis HealthCare System - Zanesville, Ohio

First COVID-19 Patient's Amazing Recovery at Genesis

man standing in front of hospital emergency sign

Patient's family waits for news of recovery

Dennis Robbins has a distinction he really didn’t want. Dennis, age 49, was the first patient hospitalized at Genesis Hospital with COVID-19. He willingly shares his story in hopes of preventing others in the community from contracting the virus.

His journey with COVID-19 began in mid-March. Dennis had flu-like symptoms, did a telehealth call with his family doctor, completed a prescription medication, and had a chest X-ray that was clear. Dennis, who is a truck driver, began feeling better within the week and decided to travel to Michigan.

When he got home on Monday, he began feeling worse. His wife Patsy took Dennis’ temperature. “It was 106 degrees. I thought my thermometer wasn’t working,” Patsy recalled.

A high fever

Patsy’s thermometer was working. She convinced Dennis he needed to go to the Genesis Emergency Department (ED). When the nurse in the ED took Dennis’ temperature, it registered 105.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Along with a high fever, Dennis had flu-like symptoms including body aches, muscle aches and a cough. “I coughed for about 12 hours straight,” Dennis said. Patsy, a social worker, had an inclination that her husband’s illness might be COVID-19, but she didn’t want to alarm him.

While Dennis was in the ED, the physicians and nurses called Patsy on her cell phone frequently to update her on Dennis’ condition. “Dr. Neuenschwander called, and said, ‘Your husband is very sick,’” Patsy said. In the ED, James Neuenschwander, M.D., Genesis Emergency Medicine, also had the same concern that Dennis might have COVID-19. “Dennis had the classic symptoms of COVID-19 – fever, cough and shortness of breath,” Dr. Neuenschwander said.

COVID-19 confirmed

Dennis was admitted to Genesis Hospital on the respiratory unit. Other illnesses were ruled out, and a COVID-19 test confirmed the virus. The medical staff used recommended treatments, but Dennis’ condition continued to worsen. He was unable to breathe, was put on a ventilator, and was in critical condition. “Dr. Le told me Dennis only had a 10 to 15% chance of survival,” Patsy recalled.

The COVID-19 virus was relatively new to Ohio. Dennis came to the ED on March 23. “Even as doctors, we had not directly experienced COVID-19,” said Van Le, M.D., Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine. “Mr. Robbins was a healthy man, only about 12 years older than me, and he was dying. What we’ve learned is that the virus doesn’t just hit older, sick people, and it can kill.”

Medically induced coma

In the Genesis Critical Care Unit (CCU), Dennis was put on a ventilator and a medically induced coma to keep him from removing the ventilator. Dennis was in critical condition and his blood pressure was falling dangerously low. Dr. Le recommended Dennis be moved on his stomach, and Dennis’ condition started to improve. “This evidence-based practice from the National Institute of Health helps patients get more oxygen into the lungs,” Dr. Le said about the supine position he had used before.

Dr. Neuenschwander credits Dr. Le with Dennis’ recovery. “He and Dr. Modi (Jignesh J. Modi, M.D., Genesis Infection Diseases Specialists), saved Dennis’ life. They were heroic.”

Dr. Le is glad he was able to save Dennis’ life and is quick to credit the nursing staff. “Genesis has an excellent team of nurses and technicians, especially Meghan, Jillian and Shelby, who were beside me the first few days Dennis was in the hospital,” he said.

Nurses fill in for family

While Dennis was in the hospital, Patsy remained at home to prevent spreading the virus. The nurses kept in constant contact with Patsy through cellphone and video calls. “I was freaking out because I couldn’t be beside him. One of the nurses asked, ‘What would you do if you were here?’” Patsy told the nurse she would rub her husband’s head and squeeze his hand. The nurses connected by a video call, and Patsy saw the nurses carrying out her wishes.

When Patsy was asked what helped the Robbinses get through the COVID-19 illness, Patsy immediately answered, “The Genesis staff. They took time with him and truly cared about him. I would not have sent him anywhere else. The staff on CCU was amazing – Dr. Le, Dr. Modi, nurses Maddy, Tony, Peyton, Heidi ….” Patsy said reciting staff names. “I want every nurse to get an award,” she said excitedly.
Dennis quickly added, “There wasn’t anyone who didn’t do an outstanding job. They each gave 110%. I can’t say enough good things about this staff.”

Dennis went home after 13 days in the hospital. He is working on regaining his strength and getting back to work. The long-haul truck driver suspects he contracted COVID-19 while traveling to New York City the weeks before. Before mid-March, he didn’t have any symptoms and didn’t know he had contracted the virus when he was around his 5-month-old grandchild. The grandchild had a fever, tested positive for COVID-19, was hospitalized for two days and recovered quickly.

The Robbinses’ advice to the community is to take the virus seriously. “This virus is scary. We don’t want anyone else to suffer and go through what we went through,” Patsy said. Dennis didn’t have any preexisting health conditions, was not a tobacco user, and followed the treatment recommended by his family doctor. “If this can happen to us, it can happen to anybody,” Patsy said.

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