It began with a cough. It was just a bit one, however Ron Temko tended to cough typically, so the household wasn’t apprehensive. By all accounts, every thing was regular.
His household may by no means have anticipated that just some days later, Ron can be admitted into the intensive care unit at UCSF Parnassus, the place he would spend 21 days in a medically induced coma, 34 days on a ventilator and 40 days on a feeding tube. He was hospitalized for over 61 days as a consequence of COVID-19 signs, throughout which he may barely discuss and needed to relearn to stroll and sit up by himself. He was a breath away from loss of life.
Concurrently, Ron was being handled for Stage 5 prostate most cancers, however he and his spouse, Linda Temko, have been extremely lively and avid vacationers. Round mid-February, Ron and Linda, each 69, set off for a global journey — they have been attending a marriage in South Africa and made a couple of stops in Europe earlier than and after. At that time, they already knew in regards to the coronavirus, and did their greatest to be diligent — sporting masks within the airport and on the airplane, making an attempt to social distance, wiping down each space earlier than they sat down.
Once they returned to their residence within the Marina district of San Francisco round March 10, everybody was feeling high quality — in addition to all of the individuals they’d seen overseas — in order that they determined to shelter in place with their daughter Perri Garner’s household: her husband, Zak, 34, and two youngsters, Mila and Knolls, who all dwell in San Rafael.
It had been a stunning few days — the household went on walks over to Crissy Area and Ron obtained to spend time along with his new child granddaughter, who was three months previous. However the tickle in his throat was rising. On March 16, after Perri, 33, had put the youngsters to sleep, she requested Ron if she may take his temperature: 100.4. They known as his physician, who informed him to name the COVID-19 hotline very first thing within the morning.
That evening, feverish and terrified, he and Linda retreated to mattress. She insisted on sleeping with him it doesn’t matter what.
“I simply keep in mind him holding me all evening,” Linda mentioned.
On March 17, he examined optimistic at UCSF Parnassus, and the medical doctors determined it could be greatest to maintain him there. They put him in a room he joyfully known as the “presidential suite,” and FaceTimed his total household to indicate them the view. He was sporting a particular shirt that Perri had gotten him, studying: “Life is Good.”
For a short time, every thing appeared to be beneath management, Perri mentioned. However then the coughing obtained worse, and shortly, Ron stopped having the ability to discuss as a result of doing so would set off coughing matches. Shortly after, he known as Linda to inform her the information: He was being transferred to the ICU as a result of he wanted ventilator help. He informed her it was going to get rather a lot worse earlier than it obtained higher. Linda requested him if he was going to die.
“I don’t know why I requested him that,” Linda mentioned. “Nevertheless it simply popped out of me.”
His voice was firm when he informed her, “No.”
At across the identical time, the Garners began feeling sick. Months-old Mila spiked a fever earlier than they even obtained their check outcomes again, and pa Zak had a fever, too. Perri had muscle aches, complications and a gentle cough. Solely their son, Knolls, didn’t current any signs.
All of them examined optimistic for COVID-19.
However in some methods, it was the least of her considerations. She put each inch of her vitality towards doing no matter she may for her husband because the medical doctors needed to sedate and ultimately paralyze him so he may enter a medically induced coma. The state of affairs was getting vital. However Linda was unwavering as she reminded her household of the rule: No negativity was allowed. It was their mantra.
Ron remained within the coma for 3 weeks, throughout which the household by no means left his digital aspect — they sat with him on Zoom requires hours, hoping that he would hear them, really feel them, one way or the other. They performed his favourite music: Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac, the Black Keys. They danced and browse messages from everybody in the neighborhood who had written to them. And every single day, by the pixels of the display, they reminded him to visualise himself wholesome and robust, strolling out of there.
The household mentioned that again and again, to remind him — and themselves.
The phrase was a maxim borne out of “Psycho-Cybernetics,” a motivational self-help e book by Maxwell Maltz that Ron had lengthy advocated.
“He’s a agency believer within the energy of optimistic pondering — that what you consider you possibly can obtain,” Linda mentioned.
Throughout these three weeks, Linda tried her greatest to dam the negativity, however there have been moments the place it cracked. All of it got here to a head on Easter, April 12.
The Garners had already pushed by being sick and Linda was planning to see them, however plans modified when Perri obtained chilly toes, apprehensive about doubtlessly infecting her mom.
“I had a little bit of a breakdown then,” Linda mentioned.
She obtained up the subsequent morning and walked to Sausalito and again — a five-hour journey. She went over to the guests heart, had a granola bar with the pigeons and pelicans, and thought of an image she’d taken of Ron proper there, once they had first began courting. All she needed was the prospect to return, and take one other image so they might paste them side-by-side.
On April 13, the positivity and the visualizations gave the impression to be paying off. The medical doctors began slowly waking Ron up. However then it obtained worse. When he awakened, he was experiencing a extreme case of ICU delirium — he had no concept the place he was or what the coronavirus was, didn’t keep in mind checking himself into the hospital and was extraordinarily anxious, which quickly turned a darkish melancholy. He thought he had been kidnapped, and wrote disturbing messages in regards to the FBI and weapons to his household that he confirmed them on a chunk of paper over Zoom.
“I didn’t know if I needed to dwell or die,” Ron mentioned. His legs felt just like the trunks of sequoia bushes and his total left aspect was motionless. His proper aspect was solely working at 30% of its capabilities. “I used to be a tortoise on its again. And I used to be sitting there pondering, ‘Is the remainder of my life going to be this manner?’”
They eliminated his ventilator on April 27 — he’d been on it for 34 days. And after a sobering dialog with a nurse, he determined to visualise himself wholesome, leaving the hospital; he felt decided. It took a while — intensive bodily remedy and occupational remedy — however quickly he was capable of sit on the sting of the mattress himself, after which stroll once more. On Might 18, Linda appeared outdoors of his window with an enormous signal for his or her 40th anniversary: It had lyrics from their marriage ceremony tune, “Make It With You” by Bread.
She got here dwelling to a bouquet of flowers he’d ordered her: 40 purple roses and two white roses, surrounded by 9 candles — for his or her quick household — that Perri had organized. Linda was characteristically unattainable to shock, however her husband had performed it.
After Ron’s two months within the hospital and three weeks in a coma, his household arrived at UCSF Mount Zion, the place he’d been transferred, to take him dwelling on Wednesday. Household and mates swarmed the skin, holding up neon indicators that glowed beneath the nice and cozy solar: “Robust like Ron” and “We’re so comfortable you’re dwelling.” Linda and Perri embraced one another. Then the sliding doorways opened, and he was there.
The solar shone brightly on Ron as he got here out to a refrain of cheers and hollers. A flood of nurses in scrubs and medical doctors adopted shut behind, encircling him as he held his coronary heart over his chest and cried softly.
He and Linda thrust their fists within the air on the identical time. One of many nurses wiped away tears, and a doctor’s glasses fogged up. Perri teared up behind her signal, which learn: “What you consider you possibly can obtain.” She informed her dad that his granddaughter was right here to see him, too.
Linda had examined damaging for antibodies, which meant she may doubtlessly nonetheless get sick. The evening earlier than selecting him up from the hospital, she questioned how she ought to greet him; the medical doctors had informed her that it wouldn’t be a good suggestion to hug or kiss him, and that he ought to stay remoted as a result of after two months, he was nonetheless testing optimistic.
However the second he obtained inside her sight, one thing clicked in her and he or she reached over to kiss his cheek.
“I’m onto my second life,” Temko mentioned, dropping his head again in his wheelchair to bask within the solar.
Linda stayed beside him, rubbing his again. She wasn’t leaving.
Annie Vainshtein is a San Francisco Chronicle workers author. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org