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COVID-19 Reality: Reuniting a local patient with those who saved his life

Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 6:31 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - When we share health department numbers of Coronavirus cases, we are reminded that each number is a person, and each person is a member of our community.

When one member of our community shared his very personal battle in a Facebook Live from his ICU hospital bed, the video was seen by thousands.

Jammie Bosstel spent 22 days in the hospital fighting a virus that surprised him. Keep in mind, he knew COVID-19 was real, and he took precautions. But he never thought he would get that sick. He’s a 49 year old rock musician, in great shape. He doesn’t smoke and has no pre-existing conditions.

And yet, COVID-19 nearly killed him, if it weren’t for his heroes: the doctors and nurses who saved his life.

A good portion of his Facebook Live video was dedicated to their hard work.

“But I just want to say to the people out there. This is not about politics. The only reason why I have beat this. I’m almost done. I’m almost out of here. It’s because science. It’s because of these doctors and nurses that I will never forget. I will never forget any of their names,” said Bosstel in the video.

16 News Now’s Tricia Sloma spoke with Bosstel while he was still in the ICU at St. Joseph Health System.

“They’re working their butts off for everybody out there. People need to know that,” said Bosstel. “I’m talking, I’ve seen some of these nurses who do double shifts, Tricia. Yeah, it’s like 24 hours with all that get up on and stuff. So, hey, they deserve to be recognized.”

“They’re the heroes. You know, they’re the reason why I’m alive,” said Bosstel.

One week after that interview, Bosstel was home, on oxygen and continuing his recovery.

“I’m still coughing stuff up here and there. I’ve just been resting,” said Bosstel.

16 News Now’s Tricia Sloma invited St. Joseph Health System doctors and nurses to join the Zoom call.

“Who’s joining us?” said Sloma.

“That’s Curtis!” said Bosstel, recognizing the voice of one of his favorite nurses.

“Yes it is. Curtis Stump, registered nurse,” said Stump. Stump called in while on his shift at the hospital.

“I’m glad I’m able to see you,” said Stump. “You had a long row to hoe.”

“Oh yeah, for sure,” admitted Bosstel.

Stump has been a nurse for 35 years. These days he works directly with the sickest patients fighting COVID-19.

“This has been the hardest time ever, emotionally, dealing with our patients being so isolated,” said Stump. “It’s just horrible to watch.”

“How sick was he?” asked Sloma.

“He was very sick,” admitted Stump. “He did not have a tube down his throat but he was on the Bi-Pap, which is stronger than your at home, C-Pap. It senses when he takes a breath in and pushes oxygen hard through a mask that fits snugly on his face.”

Nurses like Stump are putting in long, stressful days with no end in sight. At St. Joseph Health System, there are 90 travel nurses helping to ease the strain.

“How helpful are those travel nurses that are coming in from other parts of the country?” asked Sloma.

“I can’t even say, I always do work more than three shifts a week, but having an extra patient or two, on your patient load is just so wearing, and then having to pick up extra shifts as well, is just really almost overcoming,” said Stump. “So I’m very thankful for the assistance that we’ve had from travel nurses and flexibility of co-workers.”

The doctors agree.

“I’ve done a lot of hard things in my career but this tops it,” said Dr. Joseph Pulvirenti, an Infectious Disease Specialist who splits his time between St. Joseph Health System and Chicago.

“What do you see with the COVID numbers here in our area that concern you the most?” asked Sloma.

“I mean it’s skyrocketing and that is extremely concerning,” said Dr. Pulvirenti. “The number of patients in the hospital, have gone up tremendously. And we’re straining our resources.”

“People out there they need to understand their behavior determines how busy we get,” said Dr. Pulvirenti. “We’re straining the system. People need to be aware of this!”

“We’re already seeing our testing sites are overrun,” said Dr. Jen Lankowicz, the Chief Clinical Officer at St. Joseph Health System. “And this isn’t just for St. Joseph Health System testing sites this is for all of the testing sites in our area.”

“Let’s talk about the demographics of the patient,” said Sloma. “Jamie is 49, in otherwise good health. You’re seeing a younger age of patients coming in your hospital?”

“We did. We saw a spike in the age range of about 40 to about 65. Whereas before, it was a little bit older. So, we keep track of the average age patient, and slowly its moving down a year or two each week,” said Dr. Lankowicz.

“How does this guy look to both of you?” asked Sloma.

“You look so much better, it’s so good to see how much better you look,” said Dr. Lankowicz.

“Thank you very much,” said Bosstel.

“Much better,” said Dr. Pulvirenti. “Still got a way to go, but much better.”

“The simplest things I can do before is so exhausting,” said Bosstel. “It’s crazy.”

“This is going to be a process. You can’t push this. This is a process,” said Dr. Pulvirenti. “But you’ve made it a long way.”

“That’s what I love about you,” said Bosstel to his doctor with gratitude. “You kept me up when I was down, man. You were my motivator more than anybody else.”

“So it’s not just medicine,” explained Bosstel to Sloma. “It’s mental too. And he helped me with that.”

As for Bosstel’s Facebook video still be shared on social media-

“Jammie, I want to thank you for doing what you did,” said Dr. Lankowicz. “It did reach a lot of people and it needed to be said.”

The message in the video also touched the hearts of exhausted nurses and doctors too.

“Your message of thanks and seeing you get better, that’s what gives them more energy,” said Dr. Lankowicz. “So when we have our team meeting, we talk about how many people went home. So that’s a big celebration for the whole team.”

“It’s got to be tough to tolerate this and not know when it’s going to end,” Bosstel said. “I appreciate everything that you did for me.”

“How does it feel to have a patient thank you like that?” asked Sloma.

“It’s worth more than all the gold in the world,” said Dr. Pulvirenti.

Stump says nurses in our area have adequate supplies of PPE for now. Although Dr. Lankowicz says it’s getting harder to order supplies as the demand grows across the country.

Dr. Lankowicz is encouraged by news of emerging vaccines. She’s also happy to see new drug therapies that are helping the sickest patients, like Bosstel survive.

Bosstel receives physical therapy two times a week at home and he says he’s slowly getting stronger every day. He’s eager to get back to normal.

16 News Now will continue to update his progress.

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