The Greatest Gift
“Do you know what day it is?” asked Kody Pham, my ICU nurse.
“I have no idea,” I said.
“It’s New Year’s Eve.”
For Bryan Pecherek, it took a few days for those words to sink in. He had missed Christmas, but against all odds, had somehow survived to see 2021.
Paramedics had rushed the avid runner, 55, to Grand View Hospital weeks before when his oxygen level plunged so low, he could barely breathe. “They said I needed to be on a ventilator,” he explains. “I gave a thumbs up and was immediately surrounded by people in hazmat suits. It was like the movie, Outbreak.” The anesthesiologist told him to count backwards from 10. “I didn’t make it to six,” says Pecherek.
It turns out, what he thought was a sinus infection was actually COVID-19. A ventilator kept him alive, but unconscious for 11 days. Nurses arranged for his wife and sons to provide encouragement through facetime. “Many neighbors and people from my church work at Grand View,” he said. “I learned they would come by at lunch, on breaks and before and after work, to pray outside my window. The love and care everyone here gave me was just off-the-charts amazing.”
The first day after the breathing tube was removed, ”just sitting in a chair was a challenge,” says Pecherek. “I’d lost 50 pounds.” Unable to stand or walk, his recovery shifted to Grand View’s inpatient rehabilitation unit. Rigorous physical and occupational therapy sessions followed. It was quite literally a series of baby steps. “My first day, I walked like a toddler. The team challenged me, promising I could leave the hospital and walk out like a man.”
Just shy of a month after arriving at Grand View Hospital, that’s precisely what Pecherek did.
Asked what he looks forward to most, he quickly answers, “Seeing my wife.” He and Jen will celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. They’d gone through long separations before when Pecherek was in the service, but this was different. “I miss her more than I ever have. I think it’s because I value life a little differently now.”
Before he left Grand View, Pecherek was planning his return. An avid cook and baker, he was taking orders for cakes, his way of saying thanks to his friends at Grand View.
“I just felt so safe, in their hands. There’s just so much love here.”
People heal best when they are close to home and loved ones. That’s why Grand View Health is responding to the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic by building flexibility into the form and function of our hospital addition, so we will be ready to meet the needs of every patient like Bryan Pechereck who comes through our doors.
Watch the video of Bryan’s story.