TN family who tested positive for COVID-19 all finally home following son’s lengthy hospital stay

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(Courtesy: Dalton family)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Knoxville family of five, reunited following a bout with COVID-19.

All members of the household tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this year, all experiencing different symptoms, but 24-year-old Patrick Dalton was left hospitalized.

Patrick, a former college athlete at Austin Peay State University, was seemingly healthy before testing positive. Unable to breathe, he was rushed to the hospital in late March.

On Easter Sunday, Patrick was transferred from Knoxville to Ascension Saint Thomas West because he needed to be placed on an external artificial lung machine, known as ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation).

“It kind of helped me put things in perspective,” Patrick said.

No home-cooked meals, no hugs, no holding hands. Patrick was left fighting for his life, hooked to a ventilator, searching for hope.

“One thing I always kept in mind was someone always has it worse than me.”

As Patrick’s parents, wife, and younger brother worried about his fate, they too, were fighting COVID-19, experiencing different severity of symptoms. Bailey, Patrick’s wife, had a fever, cough, and limited senses of taste and smell; Felicia, his mother, experienced a fever and fatigue; and Alex, his brother, noted a terrible headache alongside his fever and loss of taste and smell. Tony, his father, was entirely asymptomatic.

“We don’t know how we got it, we don’t know where we got it, who got it first, we just know all of us ended up having it and Patrick suffered the most from it,” Felicia said. ​​

After more than a week and a half on the ECMO machine, Patrick’s lungs recovered enough for the machine to be removed. He was later weaned from the ventilator, as well. 

Still, he was unable to see his family face to face.

“When I was on FaceTime with them, it was really lonely,” Patrick said.

Finally, on May 8, he was able to breathe without supplemental oxygen for short periods of time. 

“He was blessed,” his mother said.

After testing negative for COVID-19 and being deemed healthy enough for transfer back to Knoxville, Patrick spent time at a rehabilitation center. Then, 58 days later, on May 27 a family reunion.

“It’s been overwhelming, the sheer number of people who have reached out,” he said. ​​

The weekend following his return home, the Daltons celebrated with extended family and friends with a drive-by celebration held at Patrick’s old high school, Christian Academy of Knoxville.

Guests drove from as far away as West Tennessee and Virginia; each car carrying passengers who cheered, waved colorful signs, and floated balloons. 

At last check, Patrick is doing well, despite a bed sore and numbness in his left hand.

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