Steve Nicewarner and COVID-19: A Story of Survival
Thirty-one days in the hospital. Ten days on a ventilator. Loss of memory, taste and sense of smell. Such was the toll COVID-19 took on Steve Nicewarner from Elkridge, Maryland.
“I’m thankful that God brought me through this ordeal and for being able to come home to be with my family,” said the 57-year-old federal government employee. “I’m also thankful for all the prayers and for the support of our friends and family.”
The Nicewarner family credits the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center (UM BWMC) care team, friends and family, and their faith community at Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie for their support.
In mid-May, Mr. Nicewarner felt sick for about a week. He spiked a high fever and tested positive for COIVD-19 the next day. When his condition worsened within the following week, he was brought to UM BWMC for care.
In addition to being on a ventilator, Mr. Nicewarner had to be proned, which is a medical procedure that flipped him onto his stomach to help his lungs get more oxygen.
Peter Olivieri, MD, a pulmonary and critical care physician at UM BWMC, was a member of Mr. Nicewarner’s multidisciplinary care team. “Mr. Nicewarner was critically ill for several weeks, and our interdisciplinary care team utilized advanced care therapies in his treatment,” Dr. Olivieri said. “It was a wonderful feeling to see him recover and be discharged after a long and, at times, challenging hospital stay."
Mr. Nicewarner was the 1,000th patient to be discharged to home after receiving care at a University of Maryland Medical System facility, a testament to our healthcare team's skill and experience treating patients with COVID-19. “We are deeply honored to have helped more than one thousand patients across the state recover from COVID,” said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Maryland Medical System.
A different kind of advanced therapy – communication devices – also offered much-needed support by keeping the family in touch. “The hardest part for us was knowing he was in the hospital, going through some very scary things and was feeling all alone,” said Cindy, his wife.
The family utilized the hospital’s Virtual Patient Connect service to communicate via a tablet in Steve's room, with the assistance of a nurse. Steve could only mouth words and use hand motions. Before he was put on a ventilator, the family was able to text and talk via cell phone.
Two other family members tested positive for COVID-19 – Johnna Nicewarner, 25, the family’s youngest child, who is an Emergency Department nurse at UM BWMC and her 31-year-old sister, Jenny Nicewarner, a third-grade teacher in Anne Arundel County. Neither of Mr. Nicewarner’s daughters had to be hospitalized. The family’s middle child, 28-year-old Rob Nicewarner, is working on his doctorate in West Virginia. While he did not get the disease, he was also impacted, as his May 9th wedding was postponed due to COVID-19. Cindy did not get the virus.
“These discharges are an acknowledgement of the selfless work and continuing commitment and dedication of our heroic staff across the System," said Dr. Suntha, "those who work on the frontlines providing outstanding care as well as those who work behind the scenes. We also think about, and keep in our collective memory, those who COVID took from us.”
“We feel so very grateful to God for sparing his life,” Cindy said, noting that when her husband is fully recovered, the family is most looking forward to taking a vacation together.