Mary Lanning Releases First of Critical Coronavirus Patients

HASTINGS — A 54-year-old Durango, Colorado, man, who was the first critical coronavirus patients at Mary Lanning Healthcare, has been released from the hospital after 22 days. 

A group of clinical staff members and hospital administrators gathered in the North Entrance today to cheer the patient, who was dismissed home for the final stages of his recovery. 

Felipe Chavez-Ramirez, a professor at Western Colorado University in the Environmental Science program, said his case of COVID-19 started out feeling like the flu. He traveled to Nebraska anyway but began feeling worse. He finally ended up in the MLH Emergency Department when he could no longer endure chills and fever. 

“I remember arriving in a car and being put in a wheelchair and taken into a room,” he said. “That was it. That’s the last memory I have for several weeks.” 

When his memory finally returned about five days ago, Felipe could not move or swallow. He is now feeling much better and has been able to move around. 

“They’ve been putting me through both physical and speech therapy. They have been been really good and have made me feel quite well,” he said. 

Felipe said he appreciates all of the amazing care he received at MLH. 

“I think it is very scary that so many people have passed away and it’s really concerning,” Felipe said. “I consider myself so very lucky at this point in time. I hope most more people are as lucky as I am in that regard, of course, that has to do with the staff here at the hospital, which helped me come back from wherever it was at that point in time. So I’m glad that the capability is here for Hastings in case other people have the same problems.” 

Dr. Matthew Stritt, interventional pulmonologist, and Dr. Abel Luksan, MLH Chief Medical Officer, were among hospitalists, nurses, respiratory therapists and many others who cared for the patient in the MLH Intensive Care Unit. 

Dr. Stritt said the patient needed intubation almost immediately upon arriving at MLH. He spent 16 days on a ventilator. 

“A large percentage of COVID patients placed on ventilators do not survive,” Dr. Stritt said. “It took a monumental effort from our MLH team, but we get to see the reward of our efforts today! Thanks to our infection prevention/infectious disease staff for helping to keep us all safe, the nurses who provid- ed outstanding care and all the support staff for their tireless efforts. Seeing a patient who was so sick now leave the hospital is the perfect example of why we do what we do. Congratulations to all!” 

Dr. Luksan said the patient’s care was a group effort that involved physicians, nurses, laboratory professionals and ancillary, dietary and housekeeping staff, to name a few. 

“Taking great care of COVID-19 patients and keeping the environment safe for our employees, as well as the patient, is typical of the fantastic family we have here at Mary Lanning. Everyone here, and the community, is going above and beyond for this effort.” 

Dr. Daniel Brailita, MLH infectious disease specialist, advised the Critical Care Team and helped in setting up the COVID-19 unit. 

“This patient arrived as critically ill. As you know, many patients in his situation never recover,” Dr. Brailita said. “He has received the utmost care, including techniques and newer treatment usually done in skilled ICU units to save his life. I am very proud of the work of our nurses, all support staff and the Critical Care Team. They all provided the best care available with the compassion, skill and heart that defines our community and all of us working at MLH.” 

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