After spending 39 days in the hospital recovering from COVID-19, Matt Wiechart left on Oct. 21, following a send-off from hospital staff. He is seen here (second from left) with Amanda Laird, Jason Lamb and Dr. Cole. (Photo submitted)
After spending 39 days in the hospital recovering from COVID-19, Matt Wiechart left on Oct. 21, following a send-off from hospital staff. He is seen here (second from left) with Amanda Laird, Jason Lamb and Dr. Cole. (Photo submitted)

DELPHOS — A Delphos resident is finally home after spending 39 total days at Mercy Health - St. Rita’s recovering from COVID-19.

Matt Wiechart does not remember much of his time in the hospital but his family does.

“Matt came home the Sunday of Labor Day weekend not feeling good,” Jan Wiechart, Matt’s mom, said. “We thought it was a sinus infection.”

A few days later, his symptoms seemed to be waning but he was tested for COVID-19 on Thursday. The positive result came back on Saturday his mom said.

“On Sunday it hit him like a truck and Monday he asked me to ,take him to the hospital,” she said.

While in the emergency room they knew he would need to be admitted as his oxygen levels were in the 80s. They sat in the ER waiting for a bed to open up in the COVID unit. He got a bed later that night and remained there until Wednesday, Sept. 15.

“He wasn’t making progress, so the doctors outlined all our options for us,” Jan said. “Ultimately, he made the decision to be intubated with ECMO.”

ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, pumps the blood out of the body, removing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen, before the blood is warmed up and pumped back into the body. The process allows the heart and lungs to rest and heal.

“He also had a double pneumothorax, so holes in both lungs,” Jan said. “So they placed chest tubes for that as well.”

Matt spent 9 days on ECMO before it was discontinued. However, the attempts to get him off the vent and remove the intubation were slow-going. When they attempted extubation, he became agitated, fighting it off.

“Dr. Cole in the ICU recommended we put a trach in to get him off sedation and the medication,” Jan said. “Thursday morning they did the trach. The night nurses got him off sedation medications that night. On Friday morning we went in and he was awake and alert.”

Just a few days later, on Monday, he was taken off the vent and breathing room oxygen, no supplemental oxygen required.

After that, Matt was moved to a step down unit where he remained for a few days before beginning intensive rehabilitation.

“He went to an intensive rehab, involving physical, occupational and speech therapy,” Jan said.

Matt was on the vent for 20 days, and the recovery period after his experience is ongoing. However, his family said they could not have gotten through this without the help of the their family and friends, the community and his doctors and nurses.

“We couldn’t have gotten through it without the power of prayer and the fact that he’s 21 and strong and otherwise healthy,” Jan said. “It was very humbling, all the support, prayers and love.”

Matt and his family would like to thank Dr. Cole, Dr. Schwieterman, nurse practitioner Amanda Laird, respiratory therapist Jason Lamb, ICU nurses Bailey Miller, Tamara Young, Tyler Maag and Jeannie Hummer, occupational therapist Jenna Frey, physical therapist Chris Will, speech therapist Megan Evers, rehabilitation nurses Shelly Gayheart and Jeanne Roehm and Trinity Pastor Kevin Hall.

“I just want to thank all the people who organized and provided us with meals, gift cards and monetary donations,” Jan said. “They’re too numerous to name, and everybody who prayed for us.”

Matt said he is unvaccinated and does not regret his choice, but had he known ahead of time what would happen he would have gotten the vaccine. The experience has been difficult, but he has advice for those who may be facing something similar.

“My advice for anyone going through this is to be as positive as you can be about it,” he said. “Listen to your doctor, nurses and therapist suggestions to get better. Also set goals for yourself so you have something to work towards day in and day out.”