GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The last time Channing Finkbeiner’s two teenage sons saw their father in person, he was unconscious and intubated.
Hospital visits in the midst of the pandemic were only allowed because he may not be alive.
But on Wednesday, December 23, just two days before Christmas, they got to see their father again – this time hugging him when he was discharged from hospital treatment after a dangerous fight for three months with COVID-19.
“From a medical point of view, when I talk to the ICU documents and read the reports, I should not be alive,” said Finkbeiner, a family physician with Mercy Health.
“The thought of going home before Christmas to be with my family, I could not have asked for a better Christmas present.”
Finkbeiner, 47, has not fully recovered yet. He has nerve damage in his feet and hands from the virus and is mobile with the help of a walker. His lungs are still weak and need low amounts of supplemental oxygen.
The problems had to be solved with time and physiotherapy, he said, and they are far from the five weeks he spent unconscious on a ventilator fighting for his life.
His wife, Laura, and two sons also received COVID, but had a very different experience.
“Try to take COVID seriously because you do not know,” said Channing Finkbeiner. “You can be like my wife and my kids who were sick for a week and got better, otherwise you were like me and fought for your life.”
Channing and Laura Finkbeiner say they owe his “miraculous” healing to God, an outpouring of prayer, and the medical experts at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids who cared for him.
Channing Finkbeiner used to be a doctor and not a patient, and called it a “humble” experience that gives him a whole new perspective on his role as a caregiver.
Channing Finkbeiner came down with COVID-19 symptoms in late September, and after a week of quarantine at home, those symptoms worsened to the point that he could barely breathe. His wife rushed him to the emergency room at Mercy Health in Grand Rapids.
“I woke up early Friday morning short of breath and unable to breathe. It was scary, ”he said. “I honestly do not think I have ever been as scared as I was when I was in the ER.”
It was one of the last things he remembers before he was unconscious for almost six weeks.
He was intubated a few days after arrival, and shortly after, his condition worsened and palliative care was called in.
“The first week he was in the air, he fell pretty fast,” Laura Finkbeiner said. “Almost five days in, we were called to get me to bring the boys down so we could all see him. They were just not sure if he would make it. He did not die actively at that time, but we visited him and they only visited the end of life at that time. It was overwhelming. It’s hard to deal with. ”
From there, his condition remained persistent and slowly improved with a few setbacks here and there.
Since she could not talk to her husband for about six weeks, Laura Finkbeiner said the outpouring of support from friends, family, colleagues and even colleagues and patients from Channing Finkbeiner helped comfort her through that time.
“It was just a long time to worry about whether he would make it or not,” said Laura Finkbeiner. “I had a lot of people who regularly reached out to tell me they were praying for us and thinking about us and how they could take care of us.”
In total, Channing Finkbeiner spent 37 days in a ventilator and a total of 47 days in the intensive care unit in St. Petersburg. Mary’s.
When he was transferred to Mary Free Bed for Rehabilitation on November 24, he required significant amounts of oxygen and had minimal ability to move his body.
He said he understands why some are saddened by the restrictions everyone is under because of COVID-19, but urged people to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols.
Finkbeiner, who says he barely survived, said it is not just the elderly who die or become seriously ill from the virus.
“You just do not know the potential risk that we are putting each other in,” he said. “You do not know if it will be a 20-year-old college student versus an 80-year-old grandmother who ends up dying or becoming critically disabled from this virus. It’s not something we know for sure.
Finkbeiner said he is confident about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“The first opportunity my family and I have to get the vaccine, we do,” he said.
As for those who cared for him during his three-month battle, Finkbeiner had nothing but good things to say about the professionalism and level of care provided by medical staff at St. Louis. Mary’s and Mary Free Bed.
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