Edgar's story

Edgar Buckels, a COVID-19 patient.

It was early April, Edgar Buckles knew something was wrong. The 76-year-old retired maintenance worker felt short of breath, weak and had a fever. “I just didn’t feel right,” he said.

On April 9, Edgar could no longer ignore the symptoms, and his family convinced him to go to the emergency room. Testing revealed their worst fears: Edgar had COVID-19. He was placed on supplemental oxygen while x-rays and an echocardiogram were completed. These confirmed Edgar was in acute respiratory failure, had bilateral pneumonia and hypoxia, which deprives the body of adequate oxygen at the tissue level.

After 20 days in the hospital, Edgar was profoundly weak, but stable and ready for the next stage of recovery at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital – Bridgeton.

When he arrived, Edgar was unable to stand for more than 15 seconds without getting tired and dizzy. He understood that if he wanted to work in his yard or go fishing again, he needed to regain strength.

A physician-led team of nurses and therapists created a plan to help him recover. During his first few days, Edgar struggled with physical and occupational therapy, requiring frequent rest breaks. All daily living activities left him breathless. His occupational therapist quickly recognized COVID-19 had taken a physical and emotional toll on Edgar, and offered frequent reassurance progress was possible.

By the end of his first week, Edgar felt stronger, motivating him to work hard to “get back to where I was” prior to illness. Edgar’s physical therapist helped him improve his mobility - walking, going up and down stairs and transferring. With each session, he could push himself a bit farther, taking fewer breaks. His ability to sit for long periods without rest also improved.

The virus impacted Edgar’s ability to pay attention, remember and problem-solve. His speech therapist worked with Edgar on puzzles, word searches, memory games and other tasks designed to sharpen his cognition. “My therapists encouraged and helped me,” Edgar said. Throughout his stay, Edgar’s wife, three sons and two grandchildren provided constant support.

In just two weeks, Edgar met nearly all his goals. He could go 400 feet with a walker and climb three steps. While still somewhat short of breath and fatigued, he could complete all self-care activities with minimal assistance.

Contracting and surviving COVID-19 was something Edgar wasn’t prepared for. As he battled the virus’ effects, he admitted he felt a bit insecure at times and wondered if – and how -- he would get through it. He realized that confidence was the key.

On his last day, Edgar told his occupational therapist: “I’m going to make it; I’m going home.”