Harold and Phyllis Schroeder attend Buhler (Kan.) MB Church. They live on a farm outside of Buhler, about a mile west of where Harold grew up. He is 74 years old and came home from this ordeal 30 pounds lighter. She was 73 when the virus occurred. Harold and Phyllis have three adult children and nine grandchildren.
They share their story to let people know that COVID-19 is, in the words of Phyllis, “something you don’t fool with” and to give encouragement and hope to others. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with family and friends at the end of June.
Phyllis: In mid-April 2020, my husband and I were sick. Harold had a cough, and I had battled infections since Christmas and developed C. diff colitis. During a phone conversation with home health in mid-April, my nurse called an ambulance.
The ambulance took Harold and me to the emergency room, where medical personnel conducted x-rays and lab work, but surprisingly, did not perform COVID-19 tests. They gave me an IV and sent us home. Neither of us improved. Four days later, Harold’s condition had worsened, and I told him he needed to see a doctor.
Harold: At first, I thought it was just a cough or an allergy, but I called my doctor and drove back to the clinic on April 17. I tested positive for COVID-19, and they sent me straight to the hospital. I don’t remember much after that.
Phyllis: They let Harold make and receive a few phone calls Saturday morning before they intubated him. Harold received a call from our daughter, Jen, who works with Heart to Heart International in orphanage ministry in Romania. Then he called me. He said, “I love you, and I’ll see you on the other side.” He doesn’t remember any of it.
My health worsened, and Saturday afternoon, our son, Kevin, took me to the emergency room. They placed me in the hospital room next to Harold. Doctors said I had blood clots in my lungs, which is a symptom of the coronavirus. My test results came back inconclusive, but my records say I had COVID-19.
On Sunday, people came from church and walked in the parking lot with a poster and prayed. I learned about it later when they brought the poster to my room. Harold was sedated. It meant a lot to us when we found out.
I was well enough to go home April 22 and quarantined for two weeks. Our sons, Darrel and Kevin, stayed with me and checked on me for a few days. I was too weak to cook for myself. Some church members brought food and put it on the front porch where I could get it. That was a huge blessing.
April 24, a hospital chaplain arranged a three-way phone call between herself, the boys and me at home, and Jen in Romania, to discuss our healthcare choices for Harold. We told her they had to abide by his living will (a good document for everyone to have). That was one of three similar calls we received saying they thought Harold was dying. Each time, I cried and prayed. Each time, Harold improved.
Jen felt it was necessary for her to come home. After a 36-hour, complicated flight, she came to the states on April 27. She returned to Romania July 12 after the borders reopened. It was great to have her home when we really needed her.
We saw Harold May 4, the day he came off the ventilator. We couldn’t go into the hospital, so we stood in the bushes outside his room and looked through the window. We talked using cell phones, although it was hard to hear what he was saying. The nurses helped to relay our messages. Each day, Jen’s message was, “Don’t give up, Dad.”
Harold: When I woke up, it was all kind of a fog. I prayed, “God come get me. I’m done.” I’m not even sure I was fully awake. I was having a lot of nightmares.
Phyllis: Harold’s mouth was swollen from the tube. We couldn’t understand him. He also had a feeding tube through his nose. Harold’s nurses said he would get restless toward the end of the day, but when he heard us talk on the phone or saw us, he would calm down. Standing at the window became our daily routine.
May 9 was our 50th wedding anniversary. Our family came to Harold’s window with flowers and posters. It was very cold, and we wore our winter coats.
Harold: I remember waving to the grandkids and our children. It was great to see them.
Four days later, they transferred me to Wichita for rehab. But after a day or two, they put me back in ICU because my breathing was not supplying enough oxygen.
Phyllis: When they moved Harold to Wichita, we couldn’t stand by his window because his room was on the sixth floor. A friend of ours gave us an iPad so we could communicate with him via Facetime. He’d call us as many as three times a day. Two times we took things Harold needed to the hospital. The care coordinator came to the car to get them. We weren’t even allowed inside the door.
Harold: After three days, I got out of ICU and started rehab. My feet had to learn to stand again. I also had to learn to swallow again. I ate pureed food, and all liquids (including water) had to be thickened.
Then I started hearing stories of what happened to me. I developed “survivor’s syndrome,” wondering why God was saving me and not the others. Thousands of people were praying for me, and I definitely felt the prayers. I’m sure that’s why I’m still here.
One Thursday morning, nurses came into my room and said, “Your family’s coming to pick you up. We’ll have you ready.” So on June 4, after 47 days in the hospital, I was going home.
When I got home, three therapists and a nurse provided therapy through home health care until the middle of July. They anticipated it would be the middle of August—another miracle.
I’m doing remarkably well now, aside from my endurance levels. I praise God for the miracle he did in my life. I’m convinced that God has a plan for me. I tell everybody my mansion wasn’t completed yet, so God had to send me back.
This article has been posted by Christian Leader staff. The Christian Leader is the magazine of U.S. Mennonite Brethren.