HANNIBAL | In May, 54-year-old Bowling Green resident Roberto Mendez-Amado began to experience COVID-19 symptoms in what became a month-long fight for his life at Hannibal Regional Hospital.
It was a fight that Mendez-Amado would ultimately win with the help of caregivers.
“I say thank you very much for the hospital, the doctors and the nurses because they saved my life,” Mendez-Amado said. “I appreciate everything they did for me.”
Mendez-Amado tested positive for the novel coronavirus after experiencing shortness of breath, a fever and a cough. At a previous stay in a hospital in Pike County, doctors found he had double pneumonia.
Initially, Mendez-Amado started to feel better after the doctors prescribed antibiotics to treat his double pneumonia. Unfortunately, he started to feel worse and asked his wife, Diana Mendez-Amado, to take him to Hannibal Regional Hospital, where he was admitted to the COVID unit.
“He's not one to say he doesn't feel good,” Diana Mendez-Amado said. “When he told me, 'you better take me to the emergency room or I am going to die,' I knew he was very sick.”
At the COVID unit, doctors found out that Mendez-Amado had a very serious case of novel coronavirus. Early in the morning in his second day at the hospital, Mendez-Amado was intubated and remained on a ventilator for 14 days.
Even worse, COVID-19 had led to damage of Mendez-Amado's kidneys. He went into renal failure and had to have a dialysis catheter and was put on daily hemodialysis treatments.
Due to the severity of Mendez-Amado's case, the medication remdesivir was flown to Hannibal from Jefferson City for him. Donated plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient, called “convalescent plasma,” also was administered to provide antibodies to help him in his recovery.
“The doctor said when he went in last week that they gave him pretty much everything imaginable that you could give for (COVID-19),” Diana Mendez-Amado said. “We are very thankful and grateful that he is better.”
Mendez-Amado's condition was so bad at one point that medical personnel did not think he would make it.
“The doctor said to me, 'Roberto, you were very close to (passing) away because I almost called your wife and said bye,' ” Roberto Mendez-Amado said.
Instead, Mendez-Amado was able to pass his breathing test to get the ventilator tube removed. He was so weak after he came out of his medically induced coma that he could not even lift his arms.
Mendez-Amado then started working hard on exercises in his hospital bed and began working with physical therapists from the COVID unit for a week and a half. He was determined to get stronger so that he could go home, and that determination was a major factor for doctors to allow his discharge.
Nurses who treated Mendez-Amado said he was a patient they would never forget since he was kind and sweet.
“It was an honor to care for Roberto during this critical time,” said Kimberly Runquist, director of the COVID Unit and ICU. “His determination and willpower was inspirational to our entire COVID team. We are overjoyed that he was able to return home and (we) wish him continued improvement. He will forever be remembered by our team.”
Mendez-Amado is still recovering from the effects of the virus at home and is doing physical therapy.
“He tries to do a little bit of stuff, but he wears down pretty quick,” Diana Mendez-Amado said. “He's on oxygen (therapy). He can go without oxygen for a little bit and then he has to put it on and rest.”
Despite that, Mendez-Amado has recovered to the point that he is doing physical therapy exercises on his own and the occupational therapy nurse only visits him once a week at his home.
Diana Mendez-Amado said she is thankful for all of the well wishes, thoughts and prayers her husband received from friends, family and co-workers.
“He's making kind of a quick recovery, but still has some problems breathing and wearing down pretty quick,” Diana Mendez-Amado said. “He's a little shaky at times (because) he needs to build back his muscles after being laid up for four weeks. He's doing a lot better every day and he says he feels better.”