It started in January when he suspected he had pneumonia. Luckily, he took that opportunity to quit smoking. In May, Greg went in to have his gall bladder removed. He was supposed to be off work for 2 weeks but ended up missing 6 weeks.
Greg was still ill when he returned to work. He then went back into the hospital with a rib out of place and spent three days. He was getting more fatigued and more short of breath. Greg again had pneumonia, the second time that year, but unfortunately not the last.
When Greg, who lives in Lansing, MI, went to pick up his friend, Christine, in Windsor Canada, she remarked that after he walked down the stairs, he was so out of breath, she thought he was having a heart attack. After 45 minutes, Greg got up the energy for the two hour drive home. On July 5th, Greg went to his physician; it took him almost an hour to get out of his car and walk into her office.
Greg’s doctor knew he had pneumonia before and took no chest X-rays. On July 7th, Greg was getting much worse; he got into his car and drove to his Mom’s house. Greg’s friend went inside and she told his mother that he needed to go to the hospital; Greg’s mother called 911 and an ambulance arrived. At first, the paramedics thought Greg had a heart attack.
Greg was initially taken to the closest hospital but at that facility, they said that Greg was in such bad shape, that they had to move him to a trauma unit. That was the last Greg recalls until he awoke from his drug induced coma, three and a half weeks later, and in another medical facility.
However, Greg had many dreams during this time which he said were very strange, among them that he thought that he was in Las Vegas. Also, during his time in ICU, which was five weeks, Greg’s doctors told him that he was HIV positive, which Greg realized was another major precipitating cause for his ARDS. He had initially been told that his ARDS was from a blood infection that he had caught from his father while he was in the hospital.
During the five weeks Greg was in the hospital, his sister, Theresa, and friend, Christine, stayed in the hospital with him. Greg’s father was sick, and passed away in October, and his mother could only come to the hospital for about an hour each day. When Greg was finally moved into a regular room, he thought that he was in a mental ward; he kept thinking he could hear his Uncle taking in the hall, yelling, repeatedly, “Jack.”
The staff wanted to transfer Greg to another hospital for physical therapy but he persuaded them to send him home if he would agree to do outpatient Physical Therapy. He stayed at his sister’s home for about four weeks although they had wanted Greg to stay at inpatient rehab for about two or three months. The most difficult aspect of recovery for Greg was learning to walk again and getting his voice back after being intubated for so long.
When Greg called his employer and asked when he needed to be back to work, they told me the end of November. Then they said that if Greg needed more time, to take it because Greg had been such a valuable employee for so many years.
However, the following week ( 9/12/2001) Greg’s employer called and said they were consolidating and when his sick leave was over, that he no longer had a job after working at this company for eighteen years. This is what Greg took harder than anything that had happened.
He later learned that he was not only HIV positive but actually defined as having full blown AIDS. Since that time, Greg has had the flu once more and also pneumonia just about one month ago, November, 2003. Not surprisingly, the idea that he had pneumonia again frightening to Greg. But he is making sure that he is as healthy as possible.
Greg still recalls the dreams that he had when in the hospital, and as he says, “they were strange!” And to top off his year, just after his forty-first birthday, Greg’s father passed away. But Greg knows that every year will not be like these last ones, and he is thankful for one thing in particular, that he was one of the lucky ones who survived!