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Long Road to COVID-19 Recovery

Dennis Siket was diagnosed with COVID-19 the day before Thanksgiving 2020. Now, many months later, he is still recovering and sharing his story.

Dennis Siket

As Schuylkill Haven High School assistant vice principal and assistant athletic director, Dennis Siket felt it was important that he and his family take COVID-19 precautions seriously. He, his wife and their two daughters always wore masks, practiced social distancing and did whatever they could to keep the virus at bay. However, the week of Thanksgiving he and his daughters experienced cold-like symptoms. 

“Most of our symptoms were mild – sore throats, headaches and an upset stomach,” says Dennis. “We tested positive and figured that we would just have to quarantine and ride it out,” he says. 

Worsening symptoms

While his daughters recovered quickly, Dennis’ symptoms worsened. He developed a high fever, cough and extreme nausea. His wife, Janelle, took him to Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Schuylkill, where doctors determined his oxygen levels were still good. They gave him intravenous fluids and said he could recover at home. 

Unfortunately, once home Dennis’ condition continued to decline. “I couldn’t get him to eat or drink, and he literally couldn’t get out of bed. I knew he needed to be admitted, so I called the hospital and they told me to bring him in. That was the last time we saw him for over three weeks,” says Janelle. 

On Dec. 2, Dennis was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) at LVH–Schuylkill and was diagnosed with COVID pneumonia, which meant that COVID-19 had spread through his lungs. Although he didn’t need to be intubated, Dennis received oxygen and was placed in the prone position, on his stomach, for up to 16 hours a day to increase his oxygen flow. 

The most difficult part for his family was the uncertainty. “We weren’t allowed to visit, but the nurses were great. I would call, and they would know right who I was and give us updates. It was so hard because he just wanted to come home,” says Janelle. 

Although doctors said he could use more time in the hospital, Dennis got his wish to be released from the ICU to the care of home health care on Dec. 24. 

“I never thought it would happen to me. I was healthy, I took all the precautions, I thought that I was safe. I guess I would say that if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.”

The long road to recovery

Bringing Dennis home was no easy task and required a team effort. Janelle worked with nurses to get a hospital bed and medical equipment, such as oxygen, delivered on Christmas Eve. 

“I don’t think I slept the first night he was home. I just kept checking on him to make sure he was OK. I’m so grateful to our wonderful home health care nurses who helped us through that night and moving forward,” she says. 

Although Dennis was home, he still faced a long recovery. He wasn’t able to stand on his own for several weeks and often required oxygen. He had a team of home health care workers from nurses to physical therapists who worked with him daily. 

“It took several days to get out of the hospital bed and weeks to walk with help. It’s surreal to think about now,” says Dennis.

Closing the chapter on COVID-19

Finally, on Feb. 24, two months after he was released from the hospital, Dennis was able to return to work on a part-time basis. Although he didn’t have any health issues prior to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Dennis needed oxygen at times and grew tired quickly. 

“I was so happy to be back to work, even if it was only a couple hours a day. It was nice to feel normal again,” he says. 

Now, more than six months later, Dennis says his life has returned to near normal. He still has some lingering effects from his battle with COVID-19. He sees a cardiologist to monitor minor heart issues and at times suffers from cognitive issues, but he is back to working full time and was even able to coach and lead Schuylkill Haven High School’s baseball team to win the state title. 

“We are so proud of Dennis. He has worked so hard and has come so far,” says Janelle. 

“I never thought it would happen to me. I was healthy, I took all the precautions, I thought that I was safe. I guess I would say that if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone,” says Dennis.

If you experience symptoms of COVID-19, learn about screening and testing at LVHN.

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