GMHC was “home away from home” for 65 days!

It was a long overdue but welcomed sight. Guttenberg Municipal Hospital and Clinics staff, friends and family watched 76-year old COVID-19 patient Royce Hansel of Elkader, leave what had been his ‘home away from home’ for 65 days. Balloons, well-wishing signs, and music filled the hospital halls as tears of joy filled the eyes of those witnessing this medical miracle. 

From Royce’s diagnosis of COVID-19 on November 8, 2020 to his admittance to GMHC several days later having developed COVID-19 related pneumonia, to his release on January 15, 2021 it was a constant uphill battle to regain his health. 

The first month was the most critical in his long stay, as his lungs had closed on themselves and he fought dropping oxygen levels whenever he exerted himself. The long road to recovery would involve several departments at GMHC beyond our Patient Care Unit, including Respiratory Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. Once Royce was strong enough to begin rebuilding his strength to go home, he was transferred to a skilled level of care for rehab. Royce was able to receive uninterrupted care from all departments during all stages of recovery within the walls of Guttenberg Municipal Hospital.   Royce proved to be a hard-working and determined patient who didn’t complain even when the road ahead was uncertain. 

The decision to allow Hansel’s wife Janan to visit, despite strict hospital visitation rules due to COVID-19, proved to be a turning point in his recovery. Respiratory Therapist and hospital Rehabilitation Manager Amy Sitzmann felt if Royce could see his wife and hear her voice, it may give him the strength and determination he would need to complete his therapy and return home, and she was right. It brought Royce great comfort and a sense of calmness when his wife was visiting. He said it motivated him to work harder to be home with her, and many other family members, including a great-grandson who was born in November and he had not yet met, and that this was what kept him going.  

“All the staff of GMHC treated Royce like he was a part of their family”, commented Janan. His hospital stay spanned Thanksgiving Day, his birthday on December 3, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Both Royce’s family and hospital staff worked to keep his spirits up and make the holidays special. Janan could tell that just before Christmas, her husband had begun making significant improvement. All of the therapy and hard work was paying off. 

Before his release, Royce’s family underwent detailed training on using medical equipment that would enable his continued therapy at home. A grateful Royce commented on more than one occasion, “I don’t know how to thank you all; the only thing I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart”. His family also gave their repeated thanks to the staff. Finally it was time to be discharged on January 15, 2021!

When GMHC’s longest-staying COVID-19 patient left for home, he was escorted by wheelchair to his car, which at the time was clearly necessary. On a follow-up visit with Dr. Mark Janes in Dubuque, his doctor commented that Royce had received excellent care during his hospital stay, which had been critical for his recovery. Later, when he jaunted in and out of GMHC for follow-up appointments with pep in his step and using only a cane, Royce was barely recognizable. Hospital staff were truly stunned to see the improvement. 

Indeed, Royce, you are remarkable!

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