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In Memoriam of Curt Wical
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Justin and Krista Weber Eldora, Iowa 11/15/2020
On Saturday, March 14, 2020 Justin Weber attended a meeting on church growth in Oskaloosa Iowa. He began feeling sick the following Tuesday, so he came home and went to bed. He was fatigued and had a high temperature, but no breathing issues or heaviness in his chest, which were the initial symptoms of Covid-19. This was surprising because Justin has had asthma his entire life and often ends up with lung infections when he is sick. As the week progressed, he still wasn’t feeling well, so on Saturday he talked virtually with a doctor who said he probably had the Flu. On Monday, March 23rd, he received word that an attendee of the same meeting had tested positive for Covid-19, so on Tuesday Krista took Justin to Ames to be tested. Again, since he wasn’t experiencing breathing issues, he was told a second time that it was probably the Flu. Justin received word in the early afternoon on Thursday, March 26th that his test had come back positive and that he should seek medical help if he got worse.
Thankfully he called Krista to tell her the results and she came home from work as soon as possible. He continued to be fatigued and was running a fever but still no breathing issues. Later that afternoon Justin had some other issues that didn’t seem to be related to Covid-19, but didn’t seem right either, so Krista called the nurse line to get some advice. Because it was after 5:00, Krista and Rachel (their daughter) took Justin to the Emergency Room at Grundy County Memorial Hospital. There they received word that Justin had double pneumonia and that it was very bad. Even sitting in the hospital room, he still had no breathing issues. Justin was then intubated and sent by ambulance to Allen Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa. He was the first case of Covid-19 in Hardin County, at the Grundy County Memorial Hospital and at Allen Hospital, so it was scary for the family and for the medical professionals.
Justin spent time in the ER and was then transferred the ICU, where he stayed for 20 days, 17 of which he was on a ventilator. His kidneys weren’t functioning and his temperature was extremely high. Although Krista was unaware at the time, the medical staff did not think he would survive that weekend. There were days when progress would be made and then something else would go wrong. They put him in the prone position (laying in his stomach) three times, which began to help his lungs heal. He was on dialysis, but because Covid-19 patients often have thickened blood, clots would form that would prevent the staff from doing the procedure. His oxygenation level would go up and down based on his temperature so there were many days when his progress would go backwards. He also experienced a severe rash and a swollen tongue which were probably reactions to a medication. Thankfully on April 12th, Easter morning, he was taken off the ventilator and was making great progress in following commands and being able to sit on his own. Two days later however, he stopped following commands and according to his nurse, essentially looked like a “Zombie.” They feared that he was having seizures, swelling on the brain, a brain bleed or possibly a stroke. An EEG showed no signs of seizures and unfortunately, they were not doing MRI’s at that time on Covid-19 patients, so they played the waiting game to see what would happen next. Justin was finally able to undergo a CT scan, which ruled out a stroke or brain bleed.
On April 16th Justin was moved out of ICU to another floor that housed only Covid-19 patients. The family was nervous because he still wasn’t very responsive. It took him five days to begin coming out of the stupor in which he seemed to be stuck. And then April 22nd was a setback day for him. He aspirated some of the food from his nose feeding tube into his lungs so they did surgery to insert a PEG feeding tube, which went directly into his stomach, and did a tracheostomy. Both helped him tremendously. After an overnight visit back in ICU and the negative results of two Covid-19 tests, he was moved to a regular room where he would begin physical, occupational and speech therapy. On April 24th Justin began to turn a corner. He was beginning to move his extremities, was more alert and able to follow commands and sit up in a recliner. He even began feeding himself and standing for a little while.
On April 30th Justin made his final move within the hospital to the rehabilitation floor. He then began intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy which was usually one hour for each therapy each day. He was so weak when he arrived on the rehab floor that he said an iPad weighed a ton. Progress was slow and steady as he worked on strength, endurance, swallowing, balance and his cognitive skills. Eventually they were able to remove the tracheostomy, but not the feeding tube. That would happen after he returned home.
After 55 days in the hospital Justin was able to walk out on his own as medical staff lined the hallways and cheered him on. He was grateful for all who cared for him and they were so happy to see him doing so well. Allen Hospital considered Justin “Patient Zero” and the staff told him that they gained confidence with each hurdle he overcame. His ICU team of caregivers were willing to try anything and often conversed with east coast doctors to see what was working for them. They were also such a blessing to Krista, Jon (their son) and Rachel as they could not be in the hospital with Justin. The nurses acquired an iPad and did daily Zoom meetings with them after only a few days in ICU. It was such a comfort to at least see him.
So, on May 20th after singing the Doxology to all who had lined the halls, Justin walked out of the hospital with his family by his side. Unfortunately, Justin remembers very little of his hospital stay until he moved to rehab. He essentially lost 33 days of his life through this ordeal because he also doesn’t remember any of the time when he was at home in bed. He continued therapy after his return home and gradually improved. Although he is dealing with some residual effects of the virus, Krista and the children are eternally grateful that Justin is still with them. He found himself in moments of ministry while in rehab and since he returned home that he probably would not have had otherwise. God truly can take something bad and use it for His good!
A final note about the support that the family received during this ordeal. Krista posted daily on FaceBook so that family and friends near and far could follow Justin’s progress and uphold them in prayer. By the comments that were made and the number of times the posts were shared, they figured over 500 people were praying for him. Prayers came from all over the United States, Canada, Africa, the UK and probably other places of which they weren’t aware. Justin also received over 200 cards while in the hospital, either via mail or through the hospital’s e-card system. A mighty band of prayer support surrounded the family during those 55 days and beyond, for which the Webers will always be grateful!