Eighty-seven-year-old Richard Nearing from Pinehurst spent 127 days in different hospitals after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He has become a beacon of hope and a hero for others in a similar position — like 65-year-old Montanan Dennis Styles.
The two met about two weeks ago and became fast friends. Both have similar stories of being in and out of the hospital, the loneliness of not being able to see your family, and surviving COVID-19.
“I was having coffee with my friends and then I came up here to visit the nurses and give them some candy and one of the therapists said I have someone I want you to meet,” Nearing said.
“We hit it right off,” Styles said.
“He was as full of bullshit as I am,” Nearing said laughing with a mischievous glint in his eye.
Nearing, who spent most of his interview with the News-Press exercising on a stationary bike, has been out of the hospital for about a year now. He was able to get out and enjoy huckleberry picking this past summer and during the winter has made it out ice fishing.
“My wife and I live in Pinehurst,” Nearing said. “We went to Coeur d’Alene to get our COVID test in the drive-through. A day or two after we got the test, we didn’t get the results. Then I started passing out at home. My wife ran me to the emergency room up here (in Kellogg), and they diagnosed me with COVID-19 and pneumonia. After that I went to Kootenai (Health), and after that, North Idaho Advanced Care Hospital (NIACH).”
The next few months would prove to be incredibly difficult. Not only was Nearing in a lot of pain, but he was also unable to see his family while staying at Kootenai or NIACH.
“I was sore and couldn’t even sit up. Then I was given steroids which really helped.
I spent two weeks in the rehab center next to NIACH. Finally, I got excused to go home, I felt good, and then about midnight the night before I was supposed to go home, I had a relapse.”
Nearing’s wife sprung into action and was able to get him into Shoshone Medical Center (SMC).
“My wife got on the phone with people here at SMC and got me in here. If I would have stayed in Coeur d’Alene, I most likely would have died.”
Nearing was incredibly grateful when he was able to be moved to SMC. Not only for the individualized care of the fantastic staff, but he was also able to see his family members again.
“I was over there for two months, and I couldn’t see anybody. I saw one person who they called the poaching preacher. He came in and baptized me. I spent two months without seeing my family at all. That’s tough. That’s the biggest support system you have in your family. The only time I could see them was through a window and wave at them. When I came over to SMC, it was a whole new world. They would allow family members to go in one at a time.
There were good people wherever I went. But some hospitals had so many people. You didn’t get the attention that you get from SMC. I ran into a bunch of good doctors and nurses in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, but none of them are what we have here.”
Styles has similar praises to sing about the care he received at SMC.
“You definitely get good attention here.”
Styles was tested and diagnosed with COVID-19 when visiting Canada. Unfortunately, he was in a bit of a predicament as you cannot take a rental car across the border.
“But they will let you take a Uhaul across the border,” Styles said with a grin. “That’s how I got home. I don’t remember walking into the house.”
Styles first tried to get admitted to Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Mont., but they were too full and didn’t have room for him. Eventually, his wife took his blood test, which showed a high enough number of 37, and he was admitted.
“They said I walked into the hospital. I don’t remember that.”
Styles also wasn’t able to see his family for an extended period of time.
“Because of COVID they kicked my wife and son out and they couldn’t visit me. Then they took me to the ICU. I was in the ICU for three weeks. They needed a bed because they were going to fly me to Colorado, but a guy ended up dying. So instead I waited two hours for them to clean up the room. And then I was there for 11 weeks, in Missoula.”
There were nine other people in the ICU with Styles and he was the only one who came out alive. That isn’t to say he wasn’t close.
“I was on the respirator for six weeks and they gave my wife a death talk, and as they were in the room, she said, ‘if you just squeeze my hand,’ and I squeezed her hand. She asked if I could do it again, and I did it again. The doctor saw it. They were close to pulling the plug. Then the doctor started giving me commands, and I started following them.
Then I caught pneumonia, and they gave my wife the second death talk.
And she was like, ‘No. He’s coming back to me.’
I remember my son standing at the end of the bed saying, keep fighting dad, don’t give up. I was unconscious for most of the time, but there are a few things that I remember.”
When Styles came to SMC, he couldn’t walk or sit up at all. A Hoyer lift was used, a tool that is used to help patients get in and out of bed to use the bathroom.
“My legs didn’t work at all and I lost 65 pounds,” Styles said. “You lost 65? I lost 43. And I still need to get 20 back. But that’s my own fault, I’m a picky eater,” Nearing said chuckling.
These two understand how lucky they are to be survivors.
“Right now. We are one in a million. And we are in one spot. We are so lucky. ”
By MOLLY ROBERTS, SHOSHONE NEWS-PRESS
Staff Reporter | March 1, 2022 1:17 PM