Chad's story

Chad Davis using a walker to help him stand next to three therapists.

Chad Davis, 47, is a native of Marthasville, Missouri. He is a husband, father and heavy equipment mechanic for the Missouri Department of Transportation. When not working or spending time with his family, Chad enjoys target shooting, muscle cars and reading.

One September day, Chad began feeling ill with flu-like symptoms. When his condition worsened and he began to experience breathing difficulties, Chad was rushed by ambulance to Mercy Hospital – Washington, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and acute respiratory failure.  After arriving at the hospital, Chad’s condition continued to decline quickly so he was sedated, put on a ventilator and fitted with a tracheostomy and feeding tube. He then went into septic shock due to acute kidney damage and was transferred to the intensive care unit at Mercy Hospital – St. Louis. He began dialysis to maintain as much kidney function as possible.

In time, Chad stabilized from COVID-19, but the battle was far from over. After nearly a month in acute care hospitals fighting for his life, Chad was transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – St. Louis, a critical illness recovery hospital, to continue his healing and recovery with the goal of being liberated from the ventilator. Upon arrival, Chad was unable to walk, reposition himself in bed, perform any personal care or talk due to his tracheostomy.

After 10 days at Select Specialty Hospital, Chad was off the ventilator, completed dialysis, had his tracheostomy and feeding tube removed and was ready to start rehabilitation. Chad’s wife, Tiffany, chose SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital – Lake Saint Louis due to its proximity to their home.

When Chad arrived at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital, he cited his goals as: “To walk, be able to care for myself, brush my teeth, get dressed, return to work and return to life with my family.” A physician-led team of nurses as well as physical, occupational and speech and therapists created a plan to help Chad get there.

At the time of his admission, Chad required assistance for walking and transferring from his bed to sitting, then standing. He also needed help with his personal care, including bathing and dressing, and some cognitive deficits and memory challenges were in play as well. Because his endurance had been so significantly impacted by COVID-19, Chad’s physical therapists focused on activity tolerance as a starting point with exercises that helped with balance, mobility and lower body strength. Simultaneously, occupational therapists worked with Chad to increase his upper body strength and independence with mobility and personal care, while speech therapists aided him with exercises to improve functional problem solving and memory. Chad also took part in group therapy, which he enjoyed, sharing, “It made me feel social and connected.”

Chad says a major turning point came the day after he underwent his therapy evaluations.  He saw early progress and thought, “I can do this.” He credits his family, friends and coworkers who provided “huge mental and emotional support” during his illness and recovery. When visitation was limited for pandemic safety reasons, Chad used Facebook Messenger, which was new to him, to communicate with his family and friends to stay motivated.

After two weeks at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital, Chad was ready to head home. His strength and endurance had improved significantly. At discharge, he was able to walk 500 feet with a walker and go up and down 12 steps independently as well as perform all of his own transfers and personal care. Chad had also made strides with his memory and problem solving, only requiring intermittent help to complete complex tasks.

Chad shared, “It took a lot of time to start moving with therapy. I learned that you lose a lot of muscle lying in bed but my therapists knew just how hard to push me -- not too much but enough to challenge me. They made me believe I could do it and get better.”

Chad looked forward to sleeping in his own bed and being back with his wife and family. He also plans to continue his recovery with outpatient therapy.

His experience with COVID-19 and the aftermath taught him some valuable lessons. Chad stated, “You quickly realize that there are a lot of little things that you take for granted. I’ve realized there is someone looking out for me up there.”