Security Manager Grateful and Well After a Tough Ride With COVID-19
Gerry Baus had been in Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, for three weeks – more than a week of that time on a ventilator – and he just wanted to go home.
Baus, Assistant Director of Protective Services for Einstein Healthcare Network, was happy when some of his colleagues showed up to push him out to the street in a wheelchair. Down on the first floor, he waved to some people he knew in a hallway.
And then, as he entered the lobby of the main Tower Building, the crowd thickened, and the applause erupted. Dozens of doctors, nurses and technicians lined the way, wearing masks, holding signs that said “Einstein Strong” and cheering for Baus, who had a rough time with COVID-19, but lived because of them.
He was overwhelmed. “It was really emotional for me to see so many people wanting to come out and wish me well,” he recalls.
Something Was Wrong
This happy ending wasn’t inevitable.
Baus, 48, a 16-year Protective Services officer and supervisor, had been at the hospital often in the early weeks of the pandemic, when his officers were “the utmost front line,” the first people that patients encountered.
A popular Collingswood, N.J., family man and travel-soccer coach, Baus encountered a lot of people in everyday life. So there’s no way to know where he caught COVID-19. But when he woke on Saturday, March 28, with a splitting headache that Tylenol didn’t cure, he knew something was wrong.
By Monday, March 30, he says, “I started having a dramatic increase in shortness of breath and the coughing was pretty substantial, with no relief.” The coronavirus test he got that day wouldn’t come back from the lab for days, but “I knew at that point I had it.”
So that night his wife, Erin, drove him to the emergency room. He wouldn’t see her again for three weeks.
Eight Days on a Ventilator
He was admitted to ICU and placed in a negative-pressure area to keep the virus from escaping the room. By April 6, his breathing was so labored that doctors put him on a ventilator so the machine could breathe for him and let his body rest.
“Being on a ventilator is kind of an odd thing,” Baus says, because medicines are used to keep you asleep. “I kept hearing voices but I couldn’t see anybody. They believe I could hear people going in and out of the room. Your mind tries to make sense of what’s going on, so I had some weird dreams.”
Otherwise, that week was lost to his memory until he came off the ventilator on April 14. His throat was sore, but otherwise he felt pretty good.
Building Up Strength
It was only when a physical therapist tried to get him out of bed a couple of days later that he realized how weak he had become: he couldn’t walk.
Baus became a man with a mission: “My goal was to get out of there as fast as I could.”
“I started doing the bed exercises and building up my legs to the point where I was able to stand on my own and walk a little bit on my own,” he recalls. “So I started walking around my room about two hours a day, back and forth between the door and the window during the commercials on TV and in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep.”
By the time Baus was ready to leave the hospital, on April 20, doctors decided that he didn’t need to be transferred to MossRehab. He was ready to go home to Collingswood, to Erin and their daughter and two sons.
‘Don’t Take Things for Granted’
“I’m very fortunate,” Baus says. “I had a lot of great people pulling for me in the hospital, doctors and all the nurses that I know. I put my life in their hands, and I wouldn’t be here without them.” He especially praised the staff in ICU and floors six and seven of the Levy Building, where he stayed.
“There were great people that were calling my wife on a daily basis and praying with her on the phone,” he says. “I mean, I went to sleep for eight days and woke up, but my wife had to keep it together for not just herself, but for the kids and not knowing every time the phone rang if it was going to be, ‘Hey, your husband passed away.'”
The joyous sendoff the in the Einstein Tower Building lobby wasn’t the only celebration.
“I came home to a huge turnout,” he says. “I don’t know how they arranged it, but the street was lined with people holding up signs, and there were cars following us. There were lawn signs all over town and the mayor called.”
Baus says he’s back at work and almost back at his full energy and strength. “I am still suffering from fatigue issues but it’s getting better each day.”
Going through a life-threatening illness has left him grateful for all the people who supported his family while he was in the hospital.
“That’s probably the biggest thing that I would say I took out of everything,” he says. “Don’t take things for granted and don’t wait for the last minute to make connections with people, because you may not get another chance.”