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Man recounts 6 week battle with COVID-19

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 21:10:17-05

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — For many people who have had COVID-19, it has felt like a common cold, but others have experienced way more severe symptoms and reactions, making for a tough road to recovery. One Twin Falls resident shares the experience that left him at St. Luke's Magic Valley for six weeks.

“I’m one of those lucky few percenters that got as bad as I did and didn’t die.”

For 35-year-old, Jon Van Wagoner, who had always been an active person, both with work and his hobbies, he soon began battling a headache that would not seem to go away. Originally from North Dakota, he was on business in Texas and started feeling ill during his stay.

Upon his return to North Dakota, he was still not feeling quite right, but his family had plans to make a trip to Twin Falls. During his time on vacation, his symptoms still would not subside, and he eventually got tested for COVID-19, and the results were positive.

Soon, his symptoms proceeded to get even worse. This persuaded him to go to the hospital, where we would stay for nearly a month and a half.

“Breathing was getting difficult, I just felt something was off at that point," said Wagoner. "So, throughout that whole day, I spent a few days already of being pretty miserable, and that day, I just seemed to get just worse and worse to where I thought, let's go get checked out.”

For his first couple of weeks, doctors ran numerous tests. As his oxygen levels declined, he put on a BiPAP machine. Despite all the efforts being made, Jon was not getting any better and was intubated and placed into the ICU.

“Just not feeling good, not being able to breathe, being hooked up to machines is very very foreign to me because I had been so active and healthy,” said Wagoner.

Luckily for Jon, doctors and nursing staff decided to let his wife, Lenzi, stay by his side during his time in the ICU.

“The nurses and the doctors, they are fantastic," said Lenzi Wagoner. "But I think me being able to be in there and talking to him, even though he doesn’t remember me talking to him for those two he was intubated, but I think that helped.”

Although there were tough moments, Lenzi managed to stay calm and reassure her kids it would all be ok.

“I just had this weird peace. For those six weeks, except there were a couple of days that were bad, but I was just able to put on that face for the kids," said Lenzi Wagoner. "They would ask me about dad, and I’d be like, oh he’s really sick, but he’s going to be ok, and they came and drew on his window in the ICU.”

Once Jon was stable enough to be removed from the ICU, there was a wave of relief, as Lenzie and family members feared the worst possible outcome. John was still monitored a couple of weeks before his release from the hospital.

Despite being happy to leave the hospital, Jon had lost an excessive amount of weight and muscle function.

“I had quite a bit of anxiety just about the physical toll that I had been through," said Wagoner. "I couldn’t function; I lost so much muscle and so much coordination, that just getting out of bed to use the restroom was overwhelming.”

To rebuild his strength, Jon attended physical therapy for two months and then went to pulmonary rehab for three months, three days a week. From his release in September to just before Christmas, he also had an oxygen tank by his side 24/7. Jon is still recovering from other complications from COVID-19, specifically damage to his lungs.

“Yeah, we’re going to have some battles through life, but we can improve and have an opportunity to live our lives and be involved in our children’s lives,” said Wagoner.

Both Jon and his wife, Lenzi, greatly appreciate the work and efforts of the doctors and nursing staff from St. Luke's as he can go on to live his life.

"They're all very positive people, and positivity and having a good attitude or good vibes and things like that, I feel like that made a tremendous effect on my health and my recovery," said Wagoner. "So, I'm very grateful for them, and for their outlook, and their willingness to serve people that are sick."

While there may be challenges ahead, Lenzi Van Wagoner is just happy to have her family whole.

“I mean having him here is way better than the alternative like we’ll take the trials that we’re going through," said Lenzi. "We’ll take the scarred lungs and the small muscles, those can be fixed.”