Norfolk man returns home after COVID-19 battle

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There are a lot of things Mike VanNetten will never understand or remember the 83 days he spent in hospital battling COVID-19.

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And there are things the 45-year-old chicken farmer and father of four from Norfolk County will never forget.

Coming out of Hamilton General Hospital on his own on June 30 is one.

“Seeing all these doctors, nurses, healthcare workers clapping and clapping when I got out of the hospital today, man, was something to see,” VanNetten said hours after his release. “I have to tell you that I have a lot of respect for the work they do.

“They are amazing.”

VanNetten’s battle began on April 8, when he developed breathing problems and felt fatigued. His wife, Sarah, took him to the emergency department at Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe.

VanNetten was diagnosed with COVID-19 and taken to a Burlington hospital.

A few days later, he was airlifted to Hamilton General Hospital. There he was heavily sedated and placed under an oxygen machine – formerly known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO – which helps keep patients who can’t breathe on their own alive. It is a treatment of last resort for COVID-19 patients. VanNetten spent over a month logged into the device.

“I don’t really remember much from those first 40 days and there is a lot that I just don’t understand,” VanNetten said loudly. “I’ve had a lot of really weird dreams that don’t make sense.

“The only thing I remember are Sarah’s love cocks.”

Sarah visited her husband in the hospital daily.

“I couldn’t touch her face, so the only thing I could do was touch her wrist,” she said. “So at the end of my visit, I would pat him on the wrist – once for each family member and the last one was always mine. “

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She has also kept her friends, family and the community updated on her progress via social media.

“The care Mike has received is beyond anything I have ever experienced,” said Sarah. “The healthcare team takes care of its patients, but it also takes care of the care of their loved ones. They are angels in scrub.

VanNetten’s road to recovery began in late April when he was removed from the oxygen machine and began to breathe through a tube. After testing negative for COVID-19, he was transferred to another unit.

In addition to his family and friends, the popular athletic trainer has received support from the wider community, the Toronto Maple Leafs and a few NHL retirees – Ryan Vandenbussche, from Delhi, and Dave Hutchison, a old Leaf. He gained support on social media, and residents placed sports equipment under the porch lights in front of their homes. Kaley’s Restaurant in downtown Simcoe supported the family with a take-out fundraiser.

On May 23, VanNetten was able to come out for the first time in over a month.

Getting out of the hospital was another big step.

“Mike and his family are wonderful and we are very happy that he is able to return home,” said Dr. Craig Ainsworth, cardiologist and intensivist at HGH, in a press release. “Mike is a real success with ECMO in COVID patients. The staff and doctors who have cared for Mike and patients like him work very hard every day for times like this.

“It was really moving for all of us, including the medical staff,” said Sarah. “They have an extremely difficult job. They have to face a lot of tragedy and heartache.

“Mike is successful so I think it was quite rewarding for them to see him come out of the hospital on his own.”

So what did the VanNettens do to celebrate?

“We stopped on an outdoor patio and had a beer,” Mike said. “I only have one, so I drink it very slowly.

“But let me tell you, after over 83 days this beer tastes really good. “


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