Curt Bennett of Bryan always considered himself a fairly healthy person.
“Two or three times a week I’d walk at the Y,” he said. “It felt like in the summertime I was very active doing yard work.”
But his health took a sharp turn for the worse in December when he came down with a debilitating case of COVID-19 that landed him on a respirator and from which he is still far from completely recovered.
It was the second week of December when Bennett started feeling very fatigued and achy. He thought perhaps he had the flu.
A friend suggested that Bennett get an infusion of bamlanivimab, which has been used to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID with varying degrees of success.
“They had gotten it a few days before and said within 24 hours they felt much better,” Bennett said. “For me it was just the opposite, things went downhill.”
On Dec. 14, he drove himself to the emergency room at Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers in Bryan. He said he was “hoping they’d give me some medication and I’d feel better and be on my way.
“Instead they admitted me to the ICU and it was a downward spiral after that.”
As his condition worsened, Bennett was put on a ventilator. He remained in the Bryan hospital until Dec. 26 when he was flown via medical helicopter to the Parkview North hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
On Jan. 4, doctors opted to take him off the ventilator as he began to recover from not only the illness, but weeks of inactivity.
“The first week off the ventilator I think I was sedated a lot because I don’t have much memory of it, except when they got me to stand up at the end of my bed (to begin physical therapy) — it was like torture trying to walk from my bed to the chair.”
On Jan. 19, Bennett was transferred to the CHWC Montpelier hospital for rehabilitation and physical therapy. There, health care workers focused on helping him regain the muscle and weight he had lost over the last month. Finally, last week Bennett was able to go home to continue his recovery.
He was quick to thank the entire Bryan community for its outpouring of support during his hospitalization.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have reached out,” he said. “I have probably 225 cards. And people haven’t just signed their names; they write notes of encouragement, quoted scriptures ... Sometimes I read them and it’s just what I needed to hear that day.
“It’s been very touching.”
Bennett remains quarantined and said he looks forward to possibly being able to drive again, possibly sometime next month, and at some point getting back to work at Oberlin-Turnbull Funeral Homes, where he is an aftercare provider.
He’s still not sure how he contracted the virus, especially since he had been conscious about mask-wearing and social distancing.
A widowed father of one and grandfather of three, he credited his daughter and son-in-law, Lynsey and Daniel Slagel, of Bryan, for doing “everything possible for me. I can’t imagine where I’d be without their help,” he said.
Bennett, who retired after 39 years in education, including 35 years as a school counselor, said the ordeal has given him something of a new lease on life.
“I certainly don’t take each day for granted,” he said, “or how great God has been to heal my body.”