'I was one foot in the grave.' Former Austin Peay athlete leaves hospital after long COVID-19 battle

Posted at 6:22 AM, Jun 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-08 08:32:48-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A former Austin Peay football player is out of the hospital after 46 difficult days battling COVID-19.

Patrick Dalton, 24, of Knoxville, was admitted to a hospital in Knoxville on March 30 after coming down with symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

"I couldn't breathe without coughing and it was like a cough that wouldn't go away, like I couldn't cough anything up," Patrick Dalton said.

Patrick said doctors took an X-ray of his chest and discovered pneumonia in both of his lungs. It is the last thing he remembers before his coma.

Patrick was transferred to Saint Thomas West Hospital to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. An ECMO machine essentially takes over the work the heart and lung are normally doing to give the organs a break to heal.

"I didn't know how bad it was until a few days ago. I guess I was one foot in the grave," he said.

Patrick's family was not able to visit with him because of hospital visitor restriction due to the virus.

"We couldn't do anything from three hours away, so we just stayed here and worried," said Felicia Dalton, his mother. "It was very real and scary and we couldn't breathe the entire time."

Dalton's parents and wife were comforted by the calls and FaceTimes hospital workers made to them each day Patrick was there.

"[They] helped us understand what was going on with Patrick and how they were spending time in the room with him and listening to the CDs that we sent him of songs and voice recordings to help him," Felicia said.

When Patrick was discharged from Saint Thomas West on May 27, he was finally reunited with his family. After spending so much time at the hospital, his doctors and nurses have become like family too. They have been checking in on Patrick ever since he left.

"One of them wrote me a letter. Another one I had quite often messaged me on Facebook and told me he is keeping up with me and glad that he's getting to see me get better," Patrick said.

Patrick's wife, both parents and brother also tested positive for COVID-19. Everyone is feeling better and taking time to relax at home.