Two doctors stood by Richard Babal’s bed in the COVID-19 unit at Kaiser Permanente’s Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro. They informed the 63-year-old that the oxygen he had been receiving was not working. He would need to go on a ventilator.
Richard confided that he was frightened he would die on the ventilator—or emerge with serious side effects. After sharing his concerns, he told his doctors, “I’ve got a wife and teenage kids who are going to graduate from high school. I’m a fighter. I just want you to know that.” He agreed to the ventilator, but he doesn’t remember much for the next month and a half while the device helped him breathe and gave his body a chance to heal.
Over time, Richard was transferred between Kaiser Permanente facilities for continued treatment for COVID-19. Each move was strategically planned so he would receive the best care for each complication he developed, including blood clots, hemorrhage, a collapsed lung, and pneumonia. He described his journey as two steps forward and one step back, while he and his care team persevered. He also credits “divine intervention.”
Collaboration, Compassion, and Expertise
“I am impressed with the ‘village’ that saved my life,” Richard said. “They worked with collaboration, compassion, and expertise. I’m grateful for the outstanding care I received, especially since my doctors were battling something new with very few case histories to guide their way.”
The day Richard was discharged after a total of 93 days of hospitalization, he received a visit from a doctor who wanted to say goodbye and wish him well. Richard asked if she was the doctor who had informed him about the ventilator back in March. Maxine Dexter, MD, replied “yes” and told him that she remembered his powerful words that night, about having a family and being a fighter.
“Our meeting was an emotional moment because it brought my journey full circle, from the night I was so sick I needed a ventilator to the afternoon I was well enough to go home,” said Richard. “Having the same doctor there made the memory extra special.”
Moments later, one of the nurses who had cared for Richard at Sunnyside Medical Center pushed his wheelchair down the hallway. He described his hospital discharge this way: “I was overwhelmed. They were all there—staff I recognized, and staff whose faces were new to me. More and more people came out of rooms, clapping as I got on the elevator.”
Then, in the courtyard, he saw “dozens of people—my doctors, nurses—everyone lined up on two sides of the walkway. Everyone clapping. It blew me away.” And, yes, he admits to being a bit teary-eyed by the outpouring of love. It was also a special moment for the health care professionals who worked so hard to make the reason for the celebration possible.
The awaiting ambulance transported Richard to a care facility where he continues to get stronger every day. “I am rebounding and well on my way to recovery,” he said, adding that he can’t wait to resume his daily hourlong workouts in the swimming pool.
But mostly, he just wants to be home with his family.
To learn more about what Kaiser Permanente is doing to keep its members safe during COVID-19, visit kp.org/covid-19.