MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Utah man spent 223 days in the hospital fighting for his life after he contracted COVID-19. Doctors said he almost died four times, but he survived – and is now home continuing his recovery.
A family trip just days after Christmas infected 10 out of 12 people in Thomas Kearl’s family with COVID-19. Kearl said he was one of the two who test negative for the virus.
On his 59th birthday, Kearl said his health quickly declined, and he went to Intermountain Medical Center with a temperature of 103 degrees and failing oxygen levels.
A COVID-19 test came back positive, and he said the doctor told him the first test he took just days before had to have been a false negative.
At this time, Kearl said he was admitted to the hospital.
“They couldn’t keep me up where I needed to be, so one of the doctors came in and said, ‘Thom, we need to put you on a ventilator, or you won’t make it through the night,’” he said.
From there, Kearl fought for his life, facing several complications.
“I had a couple of viral pneumonia, then bacterial pneumonia, then I had renal failure, then I went septic…ended up having an Illeus, then I had MRSA and then pseudomonas,” he said.
During his eight-month hospital stay, doctors said Kearl almost died four times.
“I didn’t want to die, I have too much to live for,” he said.
Dr. Peter Crossno, a critical care and pulmonary physician at Intermountain Medical Center remembers what he thought when Kearl had a near-death experience.
“I think many of us looked around the room and said, ‘I don’t know if this is going to be it or not,’” he said.
What turned into days, quickly turned into weeks and months at the hospital. But Kearl said he was determined to live, and his faith and family kept him holding on to hope.
“I love my family, I love my children, I love my three grandkids. So, I kept fighting,” he said.
Kearl’s story is just one example of how serious COVID-19 can be on a person’s health.
While his recovery hasn’t been easy, he said he’s grateful for all who’ve helped him along the way.
“I have a lot of guardian angels in the RICU. I have a lot of guardian angels in the neurorehabilitation unit, up on the hallowed 12th floor, and I’m home,” Kearl said.
Kearl said he caught COVID-19 before a vaccine was even available to him.
With the shot now widely available, he hopes his story will encourage those who are not yet vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
“Get vaccinated,” he said. “Use me as an example of what could happen because it’s awful.”
Kearl left Intermountain Medical Center for the first time in eight months last Tuesday. He’s now home and his recovery continues, as he has 18-hours of rehab every week.