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‘I’m a Miracle’: 21-Year-Old Recounts COVID-19 Fight, 3 Weeks on Ventilator

May 27, 2020

He remembers the dreams – trying to wake up and being unable to – but not much more of his experience fighting COVID-19 for more than a month at St. Vincent’s Medical Center (SVMC) in Bridgeport.

Rodney Davis, a Venezuela native living in Bridgeport, was the first patient diagnosed with the potentially lethal virus at the Hartford HealthCare (HHC) hospital. His battle was arduous. Clinical staff, according to Susan Skoog, nursing director of critical care and cardiology at SVMC, kept him sedated as his body fought.

“We used medications that would paralyze and relax his muscles. The goal was to be sure he was comfortable,” she said May 27 as part of HHC’s daily media briefing. “We learned this coronavirus was something to be reckoned with.”

At 21, Davis was younger than the staff expected to see get so seriously ill with COVID-19, Skoog said, continued, but during his 31-day stay, he experienced every level of care possible before being discharged amid great fanfare to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. He is now recovering at home.

“I was scared to leave the hospital without a walker, but day by day I’m doing so much better,” he said. “They helped me a lot but I was never going to give up.

“I’m a miracle, to be honest.”

His recovery, Skoog said, is “testament to his resilience and all the healthcare heroes it took to get him back where he belongs.”

Those heroes, she added, fought COVID in ways they’d never imagined.

“We spent a good three weeks doing new things we don’t normally do on a vent,” she said, referring to the ventilator Davis was put on to help him breathe.

COVID-19, she continued, makes using the apparatus difficult because of the way it infiltrates the lungs. Patients like Davis are regularly proned, or carefully placed on their stomachs to keep their lungs oxygenated, for 18 to 20 hours at a time.

“That’s so his body would get the maximum effect of his lungs,” Skoog said.

At the time, SVMC used a proning team of five to six clinicians working together to gently turn patients without disturbing the maze of life-saving tubes and lines attached to them.

Davis remembers none of it, although his mother, who was updated regularly by phone since visitors are not allowed during the pandemic, explained everything to him later.

“I remember the first day and that I started struggling and couldn’t breathe on my own. That’s all I remember,” he said. “I’m doing so much better – I’m eating more and more and I’m walking.”

HHC President and CEO Jeff Flaks called Davis “an unbelievable inspiration.”

“It’s an example that shows the capabilities existing in our healthcare system today and the unbelievable devotion of our healthcare teams,” he said.

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