Utah man hospitalized with COVID-19 during holidays, a teary-eyed wife shares his story

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Hundreds of Utahns spent their Christmas weekend hospitalized with COVID-19. A Utah woman shares how tough it has been with her husband in the hospital and a doctor’s update on the holiday weekend.

Intermountain Healthcare doctor Todd Vento said it was tough for staff to see hundreds of patients not be home with their loved ones this Christmas season.

“It was sad to watch folks in hospitals over Christmas and during the holidays, and because of the restrictions and caution for public health measures, not being able to be with their families, ” the infectious disease physician said Monday.

While physical get-togethers weren’t possible, Vento said hospital staff helped patients connect virtually.

“They made a lot more efforts to be assertive with pushing their contact for video contact,” he said. “You know, Facetiming relatives and a lot of that was done throughout the holiday weekend. But certainly, the expression of sadness of being in the hospital alone during the holidays when obviously that’s the most important time of the year when you want to be with your family.”

Vento said the number of hospitalizations are going down in the state, but there’s concern as to what could come following Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

Hospitalized during the holidays

It was a Christmas unlike any other for the Allen family, as Eric Allen – a husband and father – lie in a hospital bed fighting against COVID-19.

“We decided what we would do is the kids would all be there at the house and we would set it up so we were over the Facebook messenger and he would be up on the screen (and I would be with him) and the kids could stand up in front of the TV and open presents one at a time,” said Holly Allen, Eric’s wife.

Eric has been in the hospital for more than a month now, and Holly said his body has struggled to regain its strength.

“He’s still on lots of antibiotics and on blood thinners,” she said. “He was able to start making a little bit of progress this last week. On Christmas Eve they moved him from the ICU to the long-term specialty hospital.”

And on Christmas morning, Holly said doctors were able to give Eric and his family a Christmas miracle.

“They were able to give us our own Christmas miracle,” she said. “He [Eric] was able to get off the ventilator that morning.”

Holly said Eric’s recovery timeframe is day-by-day. And Monday she recounts to ABC4 News the moments leading up to his hospitalization.

“Early hours, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, he had gotten up…and his oxygen levels were dropping down into the 40s and 60s and even though he was on home oxygen…we couldn’t get him above the 60s and so we had to call an ambulance,” she said.

Once at the hospital, doctors said Eric needed to be admitted into the Intensive Care Unit.

Teary-eyed, Holly said there were no beds available.  

“He was just hanging out in the emergency room and I was in the waiting room because I couldn’t be with him,” she said.

A few hours later, Holly recounts hearing a ‘Code Blue’ being called to the hospital’s ICU.  

“That person passed away,” she said with a tremble in her voice. “And so, we got the notification that there was a bed being opened up and that would be for my husband.”

In the days following her husband’s hospitalization, Holly said watching her husband fight for his life has been a challenge.  

“It has been so hard on me,” she said. “We’ve been married for 24 years and we have been the ones that have spent very little time a part…it’s been the worst thing ever. To have this person you love so much…and yet you can’t do anything for them. You can’t help them, you can’t make it better and you just want to sit and hold their hand.”

Faced with uncertainty, Holly said there’s nothing worse than wondering if her husband will ever be able to go home.

“It’s not something you should ever have to do,” she said as tears rolled down her cheek.

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