Jim Green: Portage man shares story of conquering COVID

Jim Green: Portage man shares story of conquering COVID

Today, Jim Green still feels like part of his life is missing. That is because he has been through a lot over the past two years.

In December 2020, Green came down with a relatively mild case of COVID. A couple of weeks later on his 71st birthday, Green developed severe chills and went to bed.

“That is really the last thing I remember,” he says.

Green was admitted to St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart with myriad symptoms and was soon intubated because he was experiencing multiple-organ failure.

He was diagnosed with COVID-19-related pneumonia, and that was just the beginning of his journey.

For more than 15 years, Community Care Network cardiologist Kais Yehyawi, MD, has been one of Green’s healthcare providers. On the day that Green was admitted to the hospital, Yehyawi became directly involved in Green’s case and stayed in regular contact with Green’s wife, Sherry, throughout his hospital stay.

“Jim was in a medically induced coma for weeks,” says Yehyawi. “There was so much uncertainty of whether he would wake. Eventually a glimmer of hope started to rise, and after months of hospitalization, Jim started to show signs of improvement.”

Green is one of hundreds of COVID patients successfully treated at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System: Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, and Community Stroke & Rehabilitation Center in Crown Point.

In the earlier days of the pandemic, specially designated COVID teams at Community Healthcare System hospitals were meeting on a daily basis to coordinate the care and treatment of the growing number of infected patients. Composed of infectious disease specialists, pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, hospitalists and other healthcare professionals, the team was quickly able to assess and put into practice innovative treatments that helped to save lives.

COVID affects the heart

However, challenges in treatment continued and a new concerning complication had been discovered in COVID patients – the development of heart-related issues.

“Over the last two years, researchers and clinicians have learned a lot about this virus, although there is still a lot to learn about the lasting effects on the hearts of patients diagnosed with COVID,” Yehyawi says.

Early recognition of COVID-19 related heart attacks and vascular disease has been key to improving outcomes since the beginning of the pandemic.

When the heart muscle is inflamed, doctors use imaging such as an echocardiogram or cardiac MRI to help diagnose cardiomyopathy, a condition that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.

“As the pandemic evolved, we were able to identify certain groups of patients at greater risk to develop severe COVID-19 infection complications, such as patients with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, congestive heart failure, obesity and diabetes,” Yehyawi says.

“There were many close calls, but Jim always pushed through and demonstrated his strength and desire to live,” Yehyawi says. “He is a testament to our fight as patients, healthcare workers and society against the COVID pandemic over the last two-and-a-half years.”

Green knows how lucky he is.

“Every day that I am out and around, I feel blessed to be alive,” he says.

A long-standing coach in the community, state and with Indiana University soccer camps, Green continues to rebuild his strength. He is coming back from a moment in time when he could not speak, move his arms or even walk. He spent more than seven months hospitalized, followed by months of rehabilitation.

“I was in a wheelchair, a walker and then a cane. I kept dreaming and got to a place mentally where every day I wanted to accomplish something.”

That is exactly what he has been doing.

Recently Jim played golf again for the first time since being sick. He is back to walking at Indiana Dunes State Park. He and Sherry even took a much-needed vacation to Key West.

“We got down there and all you could do is walk or ride bikes,” he says. “I was worried about my balance and stamina, but that was probably the best thing we could have done. For me, it was the trip of a lifetime.”

Community Healthcare System offers a multidisciplinary team of specialists who treats long COVID patients – those who have recovered from initial infections, but continue to experience symptoms. For more information, call 219-703-2448.