MORAN — Richard Dudley, age 74, thought he was going home to die.
After contracting pneumonia caused by COVID-19, Dudley told doctors he didn’t want to be put on a ventilator. He’d rather go home, even if it meant to die.
The Kansas City physicians cautioned him otherwise.
Preachers came to visit him at the hospital. His family gathered to greet him at home.
Hospice services were ready.
But in the past four weeks, Dudley is doing better. Hospice workers have released him to home health care.
He’s able to perform some activities of daily living. He’s still on oxygen and has some trouble with his memory, but overall he said he feels “pretty decent.”
“There’s a lot of things I can’t do but I can still hang around the house and give my wife a bad time,” he joked.
ON FEB. 5, Richard and Pat Dudley and other family members attended the funeral for Richard’s sister.
The couple had taken precautions against COVID-19. They rarely left the house and limited their interactions with others. They wore masks.
They knew going to the funeral was a risk and tried to keep their distance and wore masks. They kept their interactions limited to their immediate family — about five people. Even so, everyone in that group came down with COVID.
“We were debating on going, but how do you not go to your sister’s funeral?” Richard said.
Pat and Richard started having symptoms several days later. Pat’s symptoms were mild. Because Richard’s lungs are compromised by COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he had a much more difficult time.
On Valentine’s Day, they both tested positive.
A few days later, Richard was in the hospital. In spite of various treatments, his oxygen levels kept falling, until finally he was taken to a Saint Luke’s hospital in Kansas City.
He kept getting worse.
Doctors warned he might need a ventilator.
Richard worried that if he went on a ventilator, he might never come off.
“I was so depressed,” he recalled. “I was laying there, just praying, ‘Oh, God, take me now or send me home.’ I looked up and this nurse was standing there, holding my hand, praying with me.”
Hospital personnel warned the family that if Richard chose to go home rather than being put on a ventilator, he might not survive, Pat said.
“They called and told me, ‘Have all the family ready,’” she said. “The nurse said it would be quick. Less than 24 hours.”
That was Feb. 23.
SINCE THEN, Richard’s condition has gradually improved.
He doesn’t remember much about those few weeks when he was really ill.
“I didn’t expect to make it through that,” he said. “I didn’t know nothing for about a week, but when I woke up, I was still alive and kicking.”
Even now, he’s often confused. For example, he’s used a CPAP machine for sleep apnea for years. But after his illness, he couldn’t remember how to use the mask. Then, one night, he suddenly remembered.
“Things are coming to me, little by little,” he said.
“I’m pretty thrilled with the way it happened. It makes you a little more religious, that’s for sure.”
The family always had a strong belief in God, Pat said, and they believe it helped them through this difficult time.
Pat said she hopes others will continue to take COVID-19 seriously, even as cases in the area continue to decrease and vaccines are being distributed.
“I would like people to realize it’s not just a hoax. It’s out there and anybody can get it,” she said. “It only takes one time.”