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Nursing home resident defies odds, survives COVID-19

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — COVID-19 has hit nursing homes particularly hard. The virus is particularly dangerous within those walls because so many patients have underlying health conditions. Patients like Ron Knauer.

In early April, Ron, a resident at Alden Debes in Rockford, tested positive for COVID-19. His wife, Chris Knauer, was terrified.

"It was my biggest fear," she said. "I called up and asked how he was doing and the nurse said he was doing pretty well. And two hours later she calls me and tells me he went into respiratory arrest and he was in ICU on a ventilator."

The odds were heavily stacked against the 73-year-old. Not only was he at heightened risk due to his age, he had a list of underlying health conditions including diabetes, congestive heart failure, along with five stents in his heart.

"I really thought he would not survive it," Chris said.

Doctors were equally doubtful.

"We had to transfer him to the ICU, we had to put him on respiratory support, ventilator support," said Dr. Allan Ong.

Ron was one of the first COVID-19 patients at OSF. Dr. Ong said it was so early in the pandemic, that some successful treatments like Remdesivir and plasma transfusions from survivors weren't an option. Hydroxychloroquine was having adverse effects on Ron's heart. So all doctors could use was antibiotics.

"When he was put on life support, it was pretty bleak. I made sure that I didn't give (Chris) too much hope because Ron wasn't showing us that," said Dr. Ong.

But Ron wasn't ready to give up. After 14 days on a ventilator and 25 days in the hospital, Ron survived COVID-19.

"That's when I knew we had our miracle," said Chris.

And miracle may be the only word to describe why Ron pulled through a virus that has killed so many.

"As far as why specifically Mr. Knauer made it? I don't know. I really don't know," said Dr. Ong.

All that matters is Ron is a survivor.

Kristin Crowley

Evening News Anchor
Kristin Crowley anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news. She is also a reporter for 13 Investigates. She brings more than a decade of experience to the newsroom. Her work at WREX has earned her multiple awards including a regional Edward R. Murrow for Investigative Journalism and three regional Emmys.

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