Let’s Talk About My Journey as a COVID Patient

family photo

Brandon and his wife, Kristen, had spent the pandemic following procedures and adhering to all precautionary measures for COVID, when a quick business trip suddenly changed everything for their family. Listen as they tell their story, firsthand, about Brandon’s fight with COVID and his recovery after.

Note: Due to extra social distancing and masks being worn during recording for the safety of all parties, some audio may sound more muffled than normal.

Announcer:

Thanks for joining us for this episode of Centra Scripts, where we talk health, and wellness, and practical tips for your everyday life. And now here’s your host, Kate Kolb.

Kate Kolb:

Well, we want to welcome you to this episode of Centra Scripts, where we talk all about things that are going on in our community, and bring in members of our community to talk about things that are going on with them and in their life, in the healthcare realm. And today we want to do a very special episode with somebody that we’ve just recently met that is one of our neighbors, one of our members of our community here who has recently gone through a battle with COVID. And he and his wife have agreed to meet with us today and just talk a little bit about their experience.

Kate Kolb:

So Brandon and Kristen, thank you so much for being here. We know that this is a sacrifice of your time and talking about this story again. And so we just want to welcome you and thank you for being here.

Kristen Campbell:

Thank you.

Brandon Campbell:

Thanks for having us.

Kate Kolb:

Absolutely. Well, we would love to get started. Just a little bit about your background, kind of where you guys are from, and a little bit about your family, and that sort of thing. So feel free to tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. So we’re both from Indiana originally, and moved out to the Lynchburg area for a work opportunity. And I’ve been here now for a couple of years.

Kristen Campbell:

Yeah, it was June of 2018.

Kate Kolb:

Okay.

Brandon Campbell:

And we’ve got two kids. We’ve got [Olivia 00:01:29] that’s six and [Bryson 00:01:30] that’s eight.

Kate Kolb:

Aw. Okay. Well, you are for sure then friends, family, and neighbors of this area. Do you feel like Lynchburg is coming around to being a little bit more of home, now that you’ve been here for a few years?

Kristen Campbell:

Oh, yeah, definitely. The community has just been really great to us. I don’t know, it’s just everyone is so nice, and friendly, and welcoming. And so it’s been really good for us.

Kate Kolb:

Well, good. Well, we’re very, very glad to have you here in the community, and then also here at Centra today talking to us. And as I mentioned before, obviously we have all been living through this pandemic that’s going on, right now. Something that none of us saw coming, something that was not on the radar for anybody during this season. And I think we have had a lot of opportunity kind of within our Centra family here to get some feedback from some of the providers, and nurses, and things like that, and hear some of that.

Kate Kolb:

But we have not had a real opportunity to talk with anyone that has had the unfortunate experience of having that hands-on experience with the virus. And so, Brandon, I just want to start with you. I’ve heard a little bit about your story, and it’s really moving, and very intense in spots, and things like that. So we just want to give you a little bit of time to give us a little bit of that testimonial of what you’ve gone through in the last few months.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. So it kind of all began on July 2nd. I kind of came down with some light symptoms. And on the 3rd, it was a little bit heavier. And kind of thought, “Maybe I should be tested, here.” And the results came back, a couple days later, that I was positive with COVID. And so, from there, it was really a pretty rough time. I spent seven days quarantined in our basement at home and away from my family, and tried to do the best that I could there.

Brandon Campbell:

And I’ll tell you, one of the things that really changed this experience for me in a drastic way, my sister is a nurse, back in Indiana. And she had mentioned to me, as soon as I became positive, that the test results had come back, she said, “You’re going to need to get a pulse oximeter. Order it on Amazon, and get a pulse oximeter and track your oxygen,” because that’s obviously a very important component of this coronavirus. And she said, “If it drops below 90, you should really reach out to your doctor.”

Brandon Campbell:

And what happened is we ordered it, and I was down there in the basement for probably four or five days before it came in. And when it came in on Saturday, July 11th, so finally … It had been about a week, I guess, that I had been down there. And I put it on, and I was really close to 80 on my oxygen. So I called the doctor. And I thought, “We can fix all of this. No problem. No big deal.” And the doctor said, “You need to call an ambulance, and you need to get to the hospital.” And that kind of started my journey there with Centra and going to the emergency, and from there.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. So back up just a little bit in the story then, and let’s talk a little bit about this. You’re here in the community now for your work, but you were traveling, is that right? Is that what was going on?

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s correct. So I had a work trip to Pittsburgh, and we had a small meeting planned there with about 15 people. And I’ll tell you, I was a little nervous about the trip. And that was kind of the first trip out since, really, the pandemic had begun in March. And so I was a little nervous about it, but also kind of excited to finally have a work trip. Get out of the house for a little bit, and get to Pittsburgh.

Brandon Campbell:

And so we get to Pittsburgh. And one of the things that happened is I realized as soon as we walked in that the quarters were very tight, and we really didn’t allow for proper social distancing during this meeting, and that kind of stuff. And so I was a little uneasy with that, but you just kind of go with the flow a little bit. And then, from there, we worked through that. And then on my way home, I started to feel sick. And then I found out that there were a couple of other people that were at the meeting that also ended up testing positive.

Kate Kolb:

Wow. Yeah. So that sort of escalated quickly, as they say. Kristen, I want to ask you, too, at this point, how did you feel about him going out of town on this trip? Were you excited for something that was more normal, or was it something that you were a little bit more apprehensive with?

Kristen Campbell:

I wasn’t really nervous, at first. I mean, in the back of my mind, there’s always the thought, “Oh, he could get sick going to a different area and being around different people.” But then at the same time, it’s just like … You’re just kind of like, “Well, it won’t happen to us.” You just always think that, “It’s not going to happen to you. And if it does, it’s not going to be that bad.” I know he was a little nervous. And I said, “No, it’s not a big deal. You’ll be fine.” And then I really did feel horrible afterwards. I’m like, “Ah. I wish I would have kind of talked him out of going.” I was really beating myself up over that when he was really sick in the hospital.

Brandon Campbell:

Which I don’t think I would have allowed. I think I would have probably persisted through that, even if she were to try to convince me, I think. You feel this obligation. Being quarantined is not normal. That’s not a normal experience. And so for somebody … I travel a lot for work, and that’s normal. That is what I do. And so when that opportunity came up to make that trip, I think in retrospect it’s easy to say you would have done some things differently. But in that moment, I think that choice probably I would have made again.

Kate Kolb:

Right. Right, yeah. And clearly, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Although I feel like that number is a little bit of something that we now want to avoid, with the year the way it is.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah, that’s a good point.

Kate Kolb:

But I think that we have heard so many people in the community just say, “When are things returning to normal? When is it going to feel like normal life again, and what does that look like?” So I think, to your point, traveling and having that opportunity to have something that felt like a very normal experience was probably not something far off the radar for you.

Kate Kolb:

And Kristen, I’m so sorry that you feel like you downplayed it. But I don’t think that there was anything that any one of us in your shoes would have done any differently, at that point in time, either. Okay. So you go on this work trip. You had a little bit of those uneasy moments with some of the meeting space. You end up getting sick, pretty much … Were you sick before you got home or as you were arriving home?

Brandon Campbell:

So, on my trip home, I noticed a cough. And I thought, almost jokingly, you say to yourself, “That’s probably the ‘rona,” but certainly hoping that that’s not the case. It’s just a little cough. No big deal. And then the next day, the symptoms really came on a lot heavier. And then I thought, “Man, I think something is going on here. And for the safety of my family and that type of stuff, I should probably be tested,” and went from there.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. So, from start to finish then, was this trip pretty lengthy? Or, I mean, how long was the difference between getting to this work trip and maybe the exposure there, to the time that your symptoms showed up?

Brandon Campbell:

Very quickly. Assuming that Thursday’s cough that I had was, in fact, the initial symptom, then I would say in a matter of three and a half days I had symptoms.

Kate Kolb:

So very quickly the onset was there. So you knew then, when you got home, “Okay, I’m sick enough that this is something that I need to go ahead and self-quarantine for.” And then that’s when you put yourself in your basement, is basically what happened?

Brandon Campbell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), basically.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. Now, at what point … You said your sister was a nurse, or is a nurse in Indiana. At what point did you … Did she contact you, or were you contacting her to keep tabs on things?

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. Well, when I felt like I needed to be tested, I reached out to all of my friends and family to let them know that, “Hey, I am sick, and I’m going to be tested.” And then from there … I think everybody has kind of this wishful thinking and positive outlook that, “Hey, it’s not the coronavirus. It’s probably just I have a cold or whatever it may be.” And so, at that point, there wasn’t really any concern. But then the results came back very quickly. I got tested on a Saturday. The results came back on Monday. And on that Monday is when I said, “Hey, I’ve got the coronavirus, for sure.” And that’s when my sister gave me that advice on the pulse oximeter, which I highly recommend.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah, which how fortunate that you have somebody in your family who was looking out for you, and was like, “Hey, you need to get this.” And now you probably need to buy stock in Amazon or something with all the recommendations that you’ve given with that.

Brandon Campbell:

I think so. Yeah, I think so.

Kate Kolb:

Well, okay, so from being home and self-quarantining in your basement for those seven days, and then talking to your sister, during that time, how did you rate the severity of your symptoms? What did that look like and feel like?

Brandon Campbell:

It was awful. It was absolutely awful. But I felt as though I could push through it. I think I had this mindset that … I hate to say invincible, but you do to a certain extent have this idea that, “Hey, this isn’t going to impact me like you see it impacting some people.” And I thought, “Man, these are just really severe flu-like symptoms,” nausea, headaches, fever, the cold chills, the hot flashes, all of that kind of stuff. And I thought, “I can just push through this.”

Brandon Campbell:

One of the things that also happened was a bit of delirium, which I understand later that when you have oxygen deprivation, that it could cause delirium and some of that kind of stuff. And so I believe that my oxygen levels were probably pretty low for an extended period of time, down there. And so I’m thankful that I got the pulse oximeter when I did. But I always tell people that if I would have happened to have had that in a drawer somewhere in the house, and I could have put it on sooner, maybe I would have gotten to the hospital three or four days earlier than I did, and maybe my story sounds a little bit different. Maybe I’m not sharing it today. Maybe it was a quicker, shorter stay at the hospital.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, yeah, that’s a good point. That kind of preventative thing that none of us have every really considered. I mean, who of us thinks, “Oh, I need to keep a pulse oximeter in my house?” That was not something that we would have normally put on our shopping list prior to this year probably. But good advice now that you’re handing out to everybody, to be able to have that.

Kate Kolb:

All right. Well, let me pause you in this piece of the story here. And Kristen, I want to talk to you for just a minute, too. You mentioned a little bit of that guilt that you were feeling in the aftermath of everything. Were you pretty convinced when he got home from the trip that he was legitimately sick, or what’s going through your mind?

Kristen Campbell:

Well, I think I was just trying to tell myself, “Oh, it’s probably just the flu,” which is just crazy since it’s summertime, and it’s not normal to have the flu in the summer. But I don’t know, just things you tell yourself, like you convince yourself, “Oh, it’s going to be fine.” Because your mind can definitely get the best of you. Because he was just saying he had body aches, fever, chills. I’m like, “It’s probably just a flu, a strain of flu. Who knows?”

Kristen Campbell:

And I just feel like, “Oh, he didn’t have the shortness of breath.” I feel like that’s a major telltale that it’s serious, is when you have the shortness of breath. So I’m thinking, “Oh, it’s just going to be the flu,” or whatever. And then we find out that he is positive. I’m just like, “Oh, my gosh. Okay.” Just kind of thinking, “Okay. Well, it’s just going to be like a bad flu,” because a lot of the symptoms are really similar.

Kate Kolb:

Right. And would you guys say that you led a pretty active and healthy lifestyle, prior to this? I mean, you’re both very young. You’re in your 30s, you’ve got two small children. I mean, neither one of you were really predisposed to any type of health problems, prior to this, right?

Kristen Campbell:

No.

Brandon Campbell:

That’s correct. Yeah. And I think in probably the last two to three months prior to me being sick, I was staying pretty active and doing a lot. Yeah, so I’d say pretty normal activity for folks in their lower 30s.

Kristen Campbell:

I think the serious thing for me with him being quarantined, when you quarantine … Because how we were quarantined, it was very separated. I know a lot of people, they’ll try to stay in their bedroom, and you’re still kind of around each other. But, I mean, he was pretty cut off from us. Because we have a walk-out basement, so I would bring food and drinks. I’d walk out the deck, and then down the stairs and knock on the door.

Kristen Campbell:

And like I said, we had no interaction, really, that whole week that he was down there. So the scary part was just not really being able to see him and see how … Because we’d talk on the phone or whatever or Face Time. And it’s just harder to tell, like how do you gauge someone’s state of being, just from the phone. So that was scary. And then he never really had the shortness of breath, even though his oxygen was low. So that was really alarming, too.

Kate Kolb:

So, really, if not for that pulse oximeter, you would have never known that your respiratory levels were that low.

Kristen Campbell:

Yeah. Because he was saying, about mid-week, that he was really, really sleepy.

Brandon Campbell:

In fact, I remember one day where I believe strongly that I went to sleep at 10 p.m. on the Wednesday night, and I slept through Thursday. I just remember just-

Kate Kolb:

Just that tired.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah.

Kristen Campbell:

And I was just thinking, “Oh, he’s just really tired because he hasn’t hardly ate anything.” He would eat just a little bit of fruit and a little bit of soup, and could barely keep that down, and really wasn’t keeping it down. So I’m just thinking he’s just out of it because he hasn’t hardly been eating, like the blood sugar’s low.

Brandon Campbell:

Just like any mother, that’s always the answer. “You just need to eat.”

Kate Kolb:

Right. “Just eat your food.”

Brandon Campbell:

“And then Sprite, and you’ll be back to work in no time.”

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. But you bring up a really valid point, Kristen, of not being able to fully assess those symptoms for yourself, on your side. And then, Brandon, you’re talking about having these delirium episodes, and you’re in the basement by yourself. So yeah, I think that that’s probably fully expected that that would be a really startling experience, scary experience, for sure, to not feel like you have a handle on it.

Brandon Campbell:

For sure.

Kate Kolb:

All right. So let’s talk then a little bit then about that transition from that self-quarantine in your home to what that looked like when you were on the phone with your sister, and she said, “Okay, you need to call an ambulance.” What was going through your heads at that point in time, and how did you plan, going forward from there?

Brandon Campbell:

I’ll tell you from my perspective that getting in an ambulance did not seem like it was a possibility for me. I wasn’t willing to say, “All right. Hey, I’m going to go let them take me in an ambulance to the hospital.” I felt as though I could drive. I knew that I couldn’t have Kristen take me and expose her. I didn’t want to be in a car with her going to the hospital. But I felt like I could drive. And I was actually talking to the doctor’s office, and they had said, “Hey, you really need to call an ambulance because if your oxygen dropped so low, then certainly you could pass out or what have you.” And so they didn’t want that risk.

Brandon Campbell:

And so we decided then … In fact, I called Kristen from the basement, and I said, “Hey, they’re telling me to call an ambulance. This doesn’t seem right.” And she’s like, “Well, I guess that’s what we should do.” And she actually called for me, and the ambulance got there. And I walked out the back of the basement, all the way up, and met them there. And so it was a-

Kate Kolb:

Did it just feel like a ride-along at that point, probably?

Kristen Campbell:

Yeah. I think the EMTs were still a little like, “Are you sure you need to be going to the hospital?” It’s just like he was coherent. It wasn’t like-

Brandon Campbell:

I walked to the ambulance. That’s a plus.

Kristen Campbell:

That probably doesn’t happen very often. I don’t know. The whole thing was just very surreal.

Brandon Campbell:

It was very bizarre, the whole exchange. So I think I finally had to talk the EMTs into taking me to the hospital a little bit. And so he did. And yeah, it all just seemed very strange. I mean, it was the first time in my life I had been in an ambulance.

Kate Kolb:

Right, because that doesn’t happen on a normal, everyday basis.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. Even when I got into the ambulance, I thought, “Do I really need to sit on the stretcher thing? I mean, I could ride shotgun. I feel pretty good.” And so it was a very bizarre experience. And then certainly getting to the hospital and going into the emergency room, and my one memory there is I’m a little taller, I’m not extremely tall, but my feet seemed to hang off the end of the bed by about a foot and a half. And I remember that for the hours that I was in the emergency room. And they were just so nice and so helpful, and the nurses and doctors that I spoke to there.

Brandon Campbell:

But what was very interesting to me is that … I don’t think I realized it at the moment, but later understanding that there were two COVID units within the hospital. There was the intensive care COVID unit, and then there was the regular pulmonary COVID unit. And I went from the emergency room to intensive care. And I don’t think … Even in that moment, I thought, “Okay, I’m not that bad off. Why am I in an ambulance? I’m not that bad off. Why am I going into intensive care?” And I think that was my mindset, most of the time.

Brandon Campbell:

As soon as I got into intensive care, the doctor came in and asked me about my feeling on the ventilator. And I thought, “Why are we even talking about a ventilator? I just need to get some medicine in me. I’ve heard some of these treatments. And we just need to get some medicine, and then I need to go home. That’s what I need.” And instead, it was this very real conversation about, “If this continues, if your oxygen levels don’t maintain or improve, what if we get to the point where we have to consider the ventilator?” And that was a pretty serious moment that brings it all into focus, I guess.

Kate Kolb:

Is that probably the moment that you finally realized, “Okay, this is probably a little more serious than what it feels like?” Or were you still kind of in denial, at that point?

Kristen Campbell:

Probably not that first day, because when he first got there, the doctor was saying, “Oh, he’ll probably just be here three or four days.” And I don’t know if the ventilator talk was just something that they kind of do with everyone. I don’t know, maybe, because he did have ARDS, which was like a really deep infection in his lungs. And so that doesn’t happen to everyone that has the COVID, either. So I don’t know if they had already knew that from his first couple of days there. I don’t know, because they ended up telling towards the end about that. And then the doctors tell me that there was some scary statistics with that, that at his age, that there was a 25% mortality rate for that, for that infection. So I was like, “Oh, god.”

Brandon Campbell:

Which I’m sure made it very real for her, at that moment. I think, for me, when we had that ventilator conversation, I just thought, “Okay.” I have the mindset of everything is willpower, and you can just kind of fight through things, and it’s up to you. I have that belief a lot in life. And so, in that moment, I’m thinking, “She can talk about the ventilator all she wants to, but I’m going to make sure that that doesn’t happen, and I’m going to do what I need to do.” Unfortunately, you’re just along for the ride. You’ve just taken a seat on the bus, and somebody else is driving, at that point. And so I think, from there, it started to get pretty serious.

Kristen Campbell:

I think probably, I don’t know, the day before he went on the ventilator or when he actually went on the ventilator, that’s when we’re like, “Okay, this is not good. This is serious.” Because he got to the hospital, July 11th, the afternoon of July 11th. And then he went on the ventilator, the morning of July 15th. So he was there a little over three days, four days, and that’s when it was real, especially once he had first went on the ventilator, and then he was still struggling with his oxygen. That was really hard, because it’s like, “Now what do we do?”

Kate Kolb:

Right. Yeah, that must have been just such an intense moment, especially for you, Kristen, having to live from the outside because, again, we were restricting visitors for obvious reasons. And my heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine what you were feeling and going through in that moment. Brandon, let’s talk a little bit about what those three to four days looked like for you, from the time that you got admitted to ICU until it became necessary to put you on the ventilator. What was going on with your care then?

Brandon Campbell:

Those three days were, “Breathe deeply through your nose, and exhale through your mouth,” for three days. It was just, “Focus on your breathing,” nonstop. Just really trying to get my oxygen right. And I’ll tell you what’s really interesting about especially those few days prior to going on the ventilator, is part of the experience, I lost a lot of the memory from those times.

Brandon Campbell:

And something that was really interesting is, after I got out of the hospital, I was talking to a really good friend of mine. And he said, “I would text you every day you were in the hospital and ask, ‘Hey, how are you? What’s your status? How are you feeling?'” And I would be very positive about where I was medically. And he said, “And one day I texted you, and I said, ‘Hey, how are you? How is your oxygen?'” And my response was, “Not good, and I feel like my back is against the wall.” And he said he replied, “What do you mean by that,” multiple times. And I never replied back.

Brandon Campbell:

And the next day, I went onto the ventilator. I didn’t know that I had ever texted him that. And so I learned that in our conversation, and I can look back through the texts and see them now. And so it’s very bizarre and surreal, as Kristen said, to experience some of that. And it’s a bit of a fog, but what I remember very clearly is, “Breathe deeply through your nose, and exhale through your mouth, and focus on your breathing.” And that’s what I tried to do.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. And now, you had a full care team during all of this, so there were providers, and nurses, and respiratory therapists that were working very closely with you during this time. Were you assigned a particular team, or did they rotate through? Or how did that look like, as far as the care went?

Brandon Campbell:

It would rotate. I think we would have the same doctor for a number of days, it seemed like. I think I remember interacting with probably three different doctors in the ICU, I should say, and a number of nurses. I feel like I understand the inner workings of the hospital pretty well now, for some reason.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah, you’re like an employee. We’ll put you on a special employee status.

Brandon Campbell:

So it was kind of a number of people, but just some really, really great folks that I’ll never forget. One of the first faces I remember seeing when I got to the ICU was a nurse named [Joe 00:25:50], and he was just so positive. And I really needed that. And he was just reassuring me that, “All of the statistics show that a guy like you, you’re going to pull through this thing and be okay.” And I really enjoyed working with him and his care. But yeah, those few days prior to going on the ventilator, there’s only a few memories that I have. And one of them that I can tell you is pretty special to me. So, earlier in 2020, not COVID-related, I lost my mother.

Kate Kolb:

Oh, I’m so sorry.

Brandon Campbell:

And so obviously that was a difficult experience. And kind of fast forward to this moment where you’re on oxygen, and I remember the nurse and the doctor saying, “Hey, we’re giving you as much oxygen as we can give you.” I was on the nasal cannula, the tube that goes into your nose, and then a mask over the top of that. And they said, “Hey, this is absolutely … This is the last step until the ventilator.”

Brandon Campbell:

And I remember just focusing so much on my breathing. As I mentioned, willpower, right? I can fight through this. And I was just so focused on it. And I remember even the little slots where the tube went out of the mask, I was trying to hold that and get as much oxygen as I could. And there was an alarm that would go off that would just constantly remind you that you were not getting it done, that the oxygen levels weren’t where they needed to be.

Brandon Campbell:

And without even knowing a nurse entered the room, I felt this very motherly touch on my back. I was laying on my stomach to help expand my lungs, and they say that it really helps. And so I was laying on my stomach, and I just felt this kind of rub on my back that, again, felt very motherly, which was really meaningful for me. And she said, “Honey, I think we’ve done everything we can do. I think we need to call your wife and talk about going on the ventilator.” And so that is a memory I remember very vividly from my experience.

Kate Kolb:

Well, they were definitely encouraging you to fight for yourself, but fighting for you in that moment, as well. So, Kristen, talk a little bit about what that phone call was like for you.

Kristen Campbell:

I mean, definitely not something I wanted to hear. And I really didn’t think that he would be the one that would have to do that. But he was just trying to reassure me that, “It’s going to be fine. I’m going to do this, and it’ll be for just a little bit, and then I’ll be better.” And he’s like, “Don’t worry about it, don’t stress out about it.” Because he knows I get stressed out pretty easily.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah, which was the worst … That was certainly the worst part of it. When the decision to go on the ventilator was made, I didn’t have these concerns about what that feels like. I mean, you can imagine what the ventilator is, and that might not be a feeling that you want to expose yourself to. I didn’t think about that. That wasn’t a thought in my mind. It wasn’t about me personally. It was about my family. It was about I knew the moment that I went onto that ventilator, my ability to calm her and to tell her everything was going to be okay, and to tell my kids that I’m going to come home, that my ability to do those things was taken from me, at that time.

Kate Kolb:

Right, which is something I think that a lot of people don’t actually think about. I mean, you just said that you didn’t really consider any of the thoughts of what this is going to feel like in my body or anything like that. But I think from a standpoint, we hear the word “Ventilator”, it’s almost become so normalized in our conversations around this topic of COVID. And it is a very intense thing, that when you go on that, you cannot communicate anymore for yourself until they’re ready to pull you off of that experience. So yeah, that would have been a very deeply intense moment for you guys to go through, and my heart just goes out to you for having to deal with that.

Kristen Campbell:

It was very helpful, I think, that the nurse called with him. We did Face Time. And she was just saying, “Yeah, his oxygen is still just not doing very good. And I think we’re probably going to have to try the ventilator soon.” So she was making me feel better about it, too. And I was kind of asking her a little bit more about it. And she was like, “You know, it could be just two days. Some people are a little longer, like two weeks.” And I was just like, “Oh gosh, I hope not.” I was like, “I’m just going to stick with the two day thing.” Well, it ended up being seven days.

Brandon Campbell:

And I think there were a lot of learnings for us through that experience, as well. And one of them that … Again, my entire view of my experience is pieced together from my own perspective, from Kristen’s perspective, from friends, as I mentioned earlier. And then even from the nurses. I had so many nurses that would come in and kind of talk to me about my journey in the hospital. And so everything just kind of gets pieced together.

Brandon Campbell:

But one of the really neat things that Kristen talked about was thinking that as soon as I go on the ventilator, that you’re just kind of comatose from that point until you get off of the ventilator. And they were actually able to kind of Face Time while I was on the ventilator, and I was able to kind of respond, just a few days in, right?

Kristen Campbell:

Like the fourth day, he was able. He was awake and alert. Because the first couple days, he had to be prone where he was completely paralyzed, and they had put him on. So that was hard, just knowing that he was still struggling with his breathing, and then they had to put him on his stomach, the first time, for 12 hours, completely paralyzed. And then they flipped him back over for maybe six hours, I think it was. And his breathing wasn’t horrible, but it was still not as good as they would have hoped. So they were like, “We’re going to put him back on his stomach for 24 hours, this time, and see how that goes.”

Brandon Campbell:

Which, as we understand, is abnormal. I think they mentioned to you that usually it’s just like-

Kristen Campbell:

No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so, because they were saying, “If you have to do it again, then you have to do it again.”

Brandon Campbell:

Okay.

Kristen Campbell:

I think they are hoping that the first time works.

Kate Kolb:

So, clearly, Kristen, you were being really well communicated with from the staff during this whole time.

Kristen Campbell:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, the doctor, I would get usually a call in the morning from a doctor, usually around 10:00 or so. And then in the evening time, around 10:00 at night, from a nurse. They kind of would give me another update.

Kate Kolb:

I’m sure that that kind of helped at least to help assuage your fears as you couldn’t communicate directly with Brandon during that time.

Kristen Campbell:

Yeah. So even when he was on his stomach and paralyzed during those first couple of days, we still did Face Time. I really kind of was like, “Oh, I don’t know. I really don’t want to see him in that condition.” But then the nurse was like, “Well, it is good to talk to him. We think they can hear you.” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know. That really scares me. What if he’s hearing me, and he’s just like, ‘What is going on, and where am I?'”

Kristen Campbell:

That really scared me, for his sake. Just worried about him kind of being aware, and then being paralyzed and freaking out. That really bothered me. But he wasn’t twitching or anything. He was completely still, so I felt better about that. So we Face Timed. They have an iPad in the COVID unit that they kind of pass around.

Brandon Campbell:

And was it day four that you said I was finally able to nod?

Kristen Campbell:

Yeah. So the first couple days, obviously you’re paralyzed. You’re in a coma, you’re out of it. You were just in la-la land or whatever you were doing. But that was Wednesday morning that you went on the ventilator, and then it was Saturday night, late Saturday, around 11:00 or something. They had called, and he was awake. I mean, he was still a little drowsy, and he still had the ventilator in. But he could nod yes, or no, or thumbs up. And he would do the heart symbol. He doesn’t even remember that, but I took some screenshots of it to show him.

Kristen Campbell:

So just being able to communicate with him just made me feel so much better, because it was really getting to a low point. Those first couple days on the ventilator, and he was still struggling breathing, and they were putting him on his stomach and paralyzing him. And then the doctor calls me and tells me, “Oh, he has a really severe deep lower lung infection.” And I’m just like, “I can’t keep taking these hits after hits. I need something positive to keep me hanging on, here.” I’m trying to stay strong for our kids.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. I was just going to applaud you for your heroism in that moment, because yeah, Brandon is doing everything he can in that moment, in his body, to fight for what’s going on with the staff, and nurses, and doctors and things here. But you’re having to hold down the home front for everybody at home, and your two younger children who probably didn’t completely understand everything that was going on.

Kate Kolb:

So I think that’s the piece maybe of the puzzle of COVID that people forget about, too, is that COVID does not just affect the patient and the person going through it, but it really affects the whole family, in that sense. So, Kristen, you’re my hero. You’ve done a great job dealing with this. And both of you have been very inspirational in how you’ve come through this story. So, Brandon, you did the home quarantine for seven days. You got to the hospital. They put you in the ICU, right away. And then you had those couple of days where you were not on the ventilator. But then how long … I think Kristen mentioned it. You were on the ventilator for-

Brandon Campbell:

Seven days.

Kate Kolb:

Seven days.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah, seven days.

Kate Kolb:

So your stay was somewhat extensive.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. 16 days total, 14 in the ICU, and then seven on the ventilator. Yeah.

Kate Kolb:

Wow. Not one that you would want to repeat, I’m sure. And not an experience that you would wish on anybody else, definitely.

Brandon Campbell:

I would not.

Kate Kolb:

So then when they finally did discharge you then, when they said, “Okay … ” What did that point of recovery look like where you were finally able to be released to go home.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. Well, I think … We had a pretty interesting first night home.

Kristen Campbell:

Well, I think before you even left the hospital … I think they wanted to keep him another week or so. But he was just like, “I haven’t seen my family in a month.”

Kate Kolb:

He’s like, “Let me out.”

Kristen Campbell:

“I was on a work trip, and then I was quarantined in the basement, and I’ve been here for over two weeks.”

Brandon Campbell:

I was pulling on the heartstrings a little bit.

Kristen Campbell:

And they’re like, “Well, you’ve only been off the ventilator for-

Brandon Campbell:

A few days.

Kristen Campbell:

Well, so it was the 21st, and then you went home. So yeah, about five or so days.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. So it was kind of interesting. So, to back up just a hair, to say that one of the other really, I guess, jaw-dropping facts that we discovered during this experience, too, was … So you’re not, as I mentioned earlier, we thought you were comatose the entire time you’re on a ventilator. Not necessarily the case. And so waking up and feeling somewhat alert, and having a ventilator attached to you and inside you is a really interesting experience.

Kristen Campbell:

And I don’t know. I don’t know how that works, how you can have that big tube in your throat and just be okay. I know a lot of people do try to pull it out and stuff.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. And when you wake up, I mean, you’re even … you were strapped. Your arms were kind of tied down. I mean, you could move them, but not up to the ventilator, which is important. So what I was going to mention is that it was day five on the ventilator that I feel somewhat alert now, and they wanted to do physical therapy while you’re on the ventilator. And so they want you to stand up and get out of bed on a ventilator. And so that was an enormous challenge, as you can imagine.

Brandon Campbell:

And really, it was probably the only time in my entire COVID experience, no matter how poor my oxygen was doing, that was the only time I felt like I couldn’t breathe, really. And I think it was because of the physical activity of trying to move and to sit up out of bed for the first time in a long time. And so, I’ll tell you, great physical therapists, [Gary 00:38:00] and [Adam 00:38:00] that I worked with in the hospital. And meeting them there that first day when I was on the ventilator, and them kind of empowering me to get up out of bed, and those types of things. And I think they had to really kind of support me. It was a situation where a lot of my strength was gone.

Brandon Campbell:

And so, to answer your question about the status when I got home, I was still very uneasy walking. I think I had six days of physical therapy, up to that point, in the hospital. But certainly had a long, long way to go, still. And so when I got home, that first night, it was a very interesting night because, one, I came home on oxygen. So I had to be on oxygen, 24 hours a day. And when you’re in the hospital, you’re back is kind of elevated.

Brandon Campbell:

And so the first thing we ran into was, “Okay, so my oxygen reacts differently when I’m laying down like you normally would when you’re at home, and sleep, or sleeping on your own.” But in the hospital, you’re elevated, so your oxygen reacts a little differently, I found. And so we had to kind of battle through that. And I think that first night, we were up at 2:00 a.m. trying to reset, and I’m watching my oxygen. She had mentioned, “I feel like I’ve got a newborn baby at home, here.”

Kristen Campbell:

You have to check on them every couple of hours, and it was really scary. I was like, “Maybe you should have just stayed at the hospital.” And he’s like, “What?”

Kate Kolb:

So you need an honorary nursing degree, at this point in time.

Kristen Campbell:

We ended up getting a recliner for our bedroom so he could sleep in that for-

Brandon Campbell:

The first week.

Kristen Campbell:

Yeah, probably about a week, yeah.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. So a real interesting experience. And the physical therapy has been a huge part of it. Coming out of the hospital, the first Friday, I guess four days home from the hospital, I began my physical therapy with the Jamerson YMCA, the Centra team there. And man, they have just done some incredible work. And I remember that very first session of physical therapy, I needed to do a body squat, essentially, but the caveat is I could hold on to the bar, which is not much of a body squat. I could hold on to the bar. So not only could I use my legs to get back up, I could pull my body up with my arms, as well.

Brandon Campbell:

I’d kind of go down into that squat stance, and I could not get back up. I mean, the physical therapist was helping me back up. And he goes, “Okay, no more body squats. I think we’re done with that.” And so that was kind of my status when I got home. And so it’s been a really great journey kind of working with them and getting my body back. I wouldn’t say I’m back to normal yet, but certainly on that trail.

Kate Kolb:

Right. And how often a week are you going to those rehabilitation appointments now?

Brandon Campbell:

Three times a week. I’ve gone three times a week since I got out of the hospital, and plan to continue that through the month of September.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. And you’re clearly moving much better now. And so that improvement is easily seen. Kristen, how was it dealing with that rehabilitation as the weeks kind of went on, for him being out of the hospital? Because you’re pretty petite.

Kristen Campbell:

Yeah. Well, luckily we have really, really great neighbors. And a good friend of ours across the street would come over. And he’s a pretty big, strong guy. And he would come over and help make sure Brandon could get upstairs, kind of like spot him. Kind of hold onto his arm, and kind of be like, “All right.” He did that for the whole first week.

Brandon Campbell:

The first week, I didn’t go up the stairs or down the stairs without his help. And it was kind of funny, even the very first night we were home, I got home and it was, I think, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. or something like that, that Monday. And I’m sitting on the couch, and I would just look over at the stairs, and I was so intimidated by them. And finally I was like, “I don’t think I can even attempt this tonight.” And so I was like, “I’ve got to sleep on the couch or something tonight.”

Brandon Campbell:

And then, after that, for the next whole week, every time I went up the stairs or came down the stairs, my good friend helped me out, and I’m much appreciative of that. And it just kind of speaks to my ability physically to get around and do the daily functions that we take for granted sometimes.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, that’s a huge piece of this, is that people have kind of just, in general, I think people have approached it kind of like both of you mentioned in the beginning. “Oh, it’s just sort of flu-like, and you’ll be fine.” And that statement, “You’ll get through it, you’ll be fine,” seems to be something that we hear a lot. But it’s affected the entire way that both of you have had to deal with life, from that moment. So, prognosis now then, you mentioned that you were staying with physical therapy through the month of September. What does your health outlook look like at this point in time?

Brandon Campbell:

So when I came home from the hospital, there were really two missions. One was my lungs. As I mentioned, I was on the oxygen, 24/7. And so I had to start showing some improvement with the lungs. And when I would take off the oxygen, very quickly my levels would drop. And so it was needed. And each day, I would take it off for just a moment to see how it would do. Had that pulse oximeter you can order on Amazon. Make sure I get-

Kate Kolb:

Right. Get your plug.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah, there it is. So I was able to follow my oxygen levels with that, and it would just dip. And I really give a ton of credit to the physical therapy team, [Jamie 00:43:16] and [Trey 00:43:17] that I’ve worked with, out at the Jamerson YMCA, have done just such an incredible job. And I feel like my lung capacity improved and my lungs improved the more I would go to physical therapy and work hard, and work hard at home. They encouraged me to do that, too.

Brandon Campbell:

And so what I found is, after a couple of weeks of being on oxygen, 24/7, I could take it off, and I could be without it for a few hours. And then that just kind of progressed to where eventually I found myself taking it off all day, and only using it when I slept and using it when I went to physical therapy. And then, all of a sudden, at physical therapy, one day, I said, “You know, I think I’m going to just go without the oxygen and see how I do.” And I did, and my levels maintained. If they would dip, they would recover very quickly.

Brandon Campbell:

And so it really was … I’ll tell you, that was a dark cloud that was over my head when I got home from the hospital, because you have this fear that maybe my lungs do not improve, maybe I don’t get better. And so seeing that progress was just such a relief, and really felt good to be able to show that progress. And then eventually get to a point like today. I’m not on oxygen, at all. I don’t use oxygen when I sleep or anything.

Kate Kolb:

That’s amazing.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. It’s been incredible. So mission one was the lungs, mission two was the body and getting physically back to where I needed to be. And I feel like those two things have gone well. So, to answer your question about the prognosis, moving forward, I think I’m well on my way. And I think hopefully in the coming months I can be considered fully recovered and back to 100% normal.

Kate Kolb:

Right. Yeah. Now, obviously, during this whole time, you’ve been out of work for obvious reasons, for recovery and that sort of thing. So what does that look like, going forward, too? Obviously, I mean, you’re probably on remote status of some kind. And what does that look like as reintegrating into the workforce?

Brandon Campbell:

Well, thankfully, I work for an unbelievable company. I’ve worked for them for almost 20 years. And they’ve done some amazing things for us. And just a quick shout out to them. One of the really cool things that they did was a lot of really great support for Kristen. My work, folks from my work, bought groceries on two different occasions for Kristen, and had them delivered to the house.

Kate Kolb:

Aw, that’s amazing.

Brandon Campbell:

Sent backpacks. I believe they sent backpacks filled with activities, kids’ activities, for each of my children, to keep them busy. And just offered so much support to Kristen, and then certainly for me when I got out of the hospital. It was really a situation where, “Hey, take the time that you need to recover, and we want you back healthy,” and that kind of stuff. So it’s really been great, and I’m very appreciative of that.

Brandon Campbell:

And I think about folks who might not be as fortunate. I’ve got a brother that works in construction. And so if he’s having to miss work, he’s missing paychecks. If he has to miss work, I mean, think about the time that it would take his body to get back to a position where he could do that physical activity. And so I’m able to work remotely and will be back to work soon. Just working remotely from home a little bit, and that kind of stuff. But, again, just very fortunate to be in the situation I am.

Kate Kolb:

Well, you bring up a really good point about the example of your brother, and that’s a great transition point to this next topic I want to talk about here at kind of the end of our time together, is just what would guys tell people in the aftermath of what you’ve gone through? What would you say to somebody who hasn’t experienced this, firsthand? What would your warning be? What would your words of encouragement be to them? Do you feel like you took it seriously before you got COVID, and has it changed at all since then? I just asked you 50 million questions.

Brandon Campbell:

Yeah. And I’ll do my best to try to answer them. I’ll tell you, I think before, as most Americans when this thing started, you start to kind of realize that there were key points that made it seem a little bit more serious. I remember when professional sports leagues started canceling seasons. And that was a day where I thought, “Oh, this is getting pretty real.” And that was in the middle of March, I believe. And so then you have those moments that you kind of start to take it more serious. And then you see the mask mandates and those types of things.

Brandon Campbell:

And I think you have a tendency sometimes to say … Maybe there are a few different camps. And maybe one is, “Hey, this thing isn’t that serious. I’m going to take my chances. I’m not going to wear a mask.” You have other folks that say, “You know, I’m going to wear a mask, but I’m going to wear it just so I’m not the guy who’s not wearing the mask. I don’t want to be the one not wearing one in the store and have people look at me.”

Brandon Campbell:

And I think what this experience has done to not only us, but to our close friends, family, and coworkers, it’s made it to where you want to be the person wearing the mask for you. You want to be the person wearing the mask for your loved ones, and that kind of stuff. And so, yeah, I think that’s important.

Brandon Campbell:

And another thing that I feel like, to kind of speak to other folks, just to kind of, I guess, offer my perspective on it is I think you see a lot of things that are brought up about the number of deaths. “Hey, here’s all the people that died from that.” I’m not a medical professional. I’m not studying this data. I’m not going to attempt to kind of quote some of the numbers. But people will bring up, “Hey, here’s the number of deaths, and so that’s just a small percentage of the population, and this thing’s going to be okay. And look at the millions, and millions, and millions of people who have had it, and they’re okay.”

Brandon Campbell:

I’m clumped into that group of those millions of people who have had it. I’m not okay. This experience was not okay. My wife, through it all, was not okay. My family wasn’t, my friends weren’t. And so I think what I would say is that you’ve got to kind of open your mind to understand the impacts that it has beyond death. It’s easy to understand and kind of comprehend what that means. But it’s hard for people to understand the rehabilitation process, and spending 16 days in a hospital, and those types of things. So that’s probably what I would encourage people to do, is just kind of take it more seriously for yourself, for your loved ones, to not put people through what my family was put through.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s huge. Kristen, do you have any wisdom that you would want to share with anybody if they were asking questions?

Kristen Campbell:

I mean, definitely I’m pretty big about wearing the masks. I think that’s important. I know there is just … People feel kind of weird about it. I don’t know, I just feel like if it’s just a little thing on our face that can help prevent this thing. If they were all wearing masks at this meeting, maybe it would have all been prevented. Who knows? Maybe not. I mean, we really don’t know. But why take that chance? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t think people should just live their lives in fear and just afraid to leave the house. But then at the same time, you’re like, “You shouldn’t be going off to concerts all the time, every weekend, and going to these big things.” I don’t know, I guess it’s just about balance, really.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah, absolutely.

Brandon Campbell:

Agree.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. I think that that’s an excellent point to raise, just that balance in all of it. We’ve said that in various ways, here at Centra, too, and just trying to put out these precautions that we’re encouraging the public to adhere to. And so I just want to thank both of you so much for being here today, for being willing to tell your story, and to kind of get that out in front of people and in our community.

Kate Kolb:

And this is not … You’re not from out of town, you’re not from some place across the country. This is here in our neighborhood and in our hometown, and a very real experience that both of you have lived through and have become victors through. And we appreciate you guys sharing that with us today, and just commend you so much for all the hard work that you have both put into this.

Kate Kolb:

And, again, my heart just goes out to your family. I know that it was not easy, at all, to experience this. So thank you for your words. Thank you for your encouragement. And we just wish you so much health and wellness in the future, going forward.

Brandon Campbell:

Much appreciated.

Kristen Campbell:

Thank you.

Kate Kolb:

Absolutely. Well, thanks again for joining us for Centra Scripts. You can find this episode and all kinds of other information about COVID and things with Centra on our website at centrascripts.com.

Leave a Comment