It was after 10 p.m. on Friday, March 27 when Dave Beermann pulled into the parking lot of St. Charles Bend. Before he could even open his door to help his feverish wife, Barbara, out of the vehicle, he heard someone shouting instructions.
“We arrived at the Emergency Department and they said, ‘Don’t get out of the pickup!’” Beermann said. “I said, ‘OK,’ and they took Barb and put her in a wheelchair and wheeled her off into the dark.
“And that,” Beermann said, “was the last time I saw her for six or seven days.”
Barbara Beermann, 71, is one of handful of people who has recovered and been discharged from St. Charles Bend after testing positive for COVID-19. She spent six days and nights in the hospital’s Progressive Care Unit, where caregivers worked around the clock to lower and stabilize her temperature, which hovered near 100 degrees before finally reaching 101.8 on the night she went to the ER.
By that time, Beermann had awoken soaked in sweat several nights in a row. Just a couple weeks removed from a knee-replacement surgery, she was concerned about an infection and was in touch with both her surgeon and her primary care physician. The possibility that she had contracted the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 never crossed her mind.
“They thought it had to do with my incision at first,” Beermann said. “But they said if my temperature went over 100.4, I should go to the ER. So that night, I was getting ready for bed and all of a sudden I was just out of energy. I couldn’t even get undressed. I took my temperature and told my husband, ‘We need to go right now.’”
Beermann hadn’t experienced any of the other symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19, including cough and shortness of breath. But she said the St. Charles ER staff tested her oxygen level and found it was very low. They also scanned her lungs, she said, and tested her for the virus by inserting a swab deep into her nasal cavity. At 3 a.m. on Saturday, March 28, she called Dave and said she wouldn’t be home that night.
Dave Beermann, 72, was also experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, though his weren’t as severe as his wife’s. So he hunkered down and self-isolated at home.
“I pretty much became a hermit,” he said.
Barbara Beermann couldn’t have visitors at all because she was isolated at the hospital to protect caregivers and other patients from the highly infectious virus. Her nurses were “awesome,” she said, constantly updating and encouraging her. She had one conversation with a doctor – a “gloom and doom” talk about ventilators and the possibility that she might not survive the situation, she said – that upset her, in part because it highlighted the fact that she couldn’t have her family at her side.
“It was petrifying thinking, ‘Oh my God, I want to do this and I want to do that. I want to see all my grandkids grow up,’” Beermann said. “It was pretty devastating, but I could see (my number on the screen) every time they took my temperature. I could see that I was getting better.”
After her second night in the hospital, Beermann’s night sweats subsided, and four days later, she was allowed to go home to her Bend home. There, she decided to make a donation to the St. Charles Foundation in honor of her nurses, who she called “so nice and kind.” Just last week, St. Charles announced a new Hero Fund to benefit caregivers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
“My son is a nurse in California, so I had great respect for them when I went in there,” Beermann said. “And I have even greater respect for them now. They took good care of me, and I just hate to see the loss of life over this. I didn’t give a huge amount, but I hope it can help somebody.”
Now, both Beermanns are feeling much better. A veteran of the agriculture and trucking business, Dave is urging acquaintances far and wide to take COVID-19 seriously.
“I tell them they need to use common sense and be very vigilant about not only their own well-being but also the people around them,” he said.
As for Barbara, her three kids and 10 grandkids are scattered across the country, so she hasn’t gotten a chance to hug them yet, though she did video chat with them to assure them that “grandma is OK.”
She feels lucky – or more precisely, blessed – to have beaten COVID-19.
“I had good care at the hospital and I had a lot of people praying for me,” she said. “By the grace of God, I’m home.”