News2020: The Year Everything Changed

Actions

One of Ohio's first COVID-19 patients reflects on amazing recovery

Victor Young was on a ventilator in March
Vic Young.jpg
Posted at 9:00 AM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 18:24:37-05

CLEVELAND — As we now know, racial and ethnic minority groups have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. That was one strike against Victor Young of Cleveland. But he also underwent massive open-heart surgery just a few months before getting COVID-19, and he is a cancer survivor. The risk markers were stacked against him.

Still, he survived, and he did so at a time when the odds were the toughest.

Young was among the first Clevelanders to be hospitalized with COVID-19 at the beginning of the outbreak. He was put on a ventilator to help him breathe. COVID-19 nearly killed the 64-year-old.

"I do realize, given this journey, in human terms, I shouldn't be here," said Young. "I mean, I was that sick."

In early March, Young's wife, Marguerite, was among the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ohio. The couple believes she got it while traveling in Detroit.

Despite their best efforts to quarantine, Young became sick, too. While his wife recovered at home, Young's symptoms were more severe.

One night he was rushed away in an ambulance, unable to breathe or say goodbye to his wife of 21 years.

"I didn't see him for 14 more days," Marguerite Young said. "It was dark. It was darkness. That's what I tell everybody. It was the darkest time."

Victor Young was put into a medically-induced coma at Cleveland Clinic-Marymount Hospital and placed on a ventilator to keep him alive. He says he felt no pain but remembers it feeling like a horror movie.

"You're mentally aware that you're trapped, and you feel like you're trapped inside of you, and so my brain was working full-blown, but nothing else was," recalled Young.

He could hear, though, and says the voices of his doctors, nurses and specialists constantly talking to him were a saving grace.

"Even though I'm totally non-responsive, they would talk, and I can't tell you how much that mattered," Young said. "It broke up isolation."

Young says he never felt alone despite being unable to have family by his side due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"The level of deep empathy was palpable," Young said. "It was overwhelming. I would just say, 'Thank you!' I don't know how you say thank you for caring so deeply because they just did!"

Young was on the ventilator for 12 days. He lost 25 pounds and has worked tirelessly to regain his strength and life.

"I am an incrementalist," he said. "I am the ultimate incrementalist. So, I actually believe that there's nothing I can't do if I do it slowly and consistently."

Dr. Debasis Sahoo is Young's pulmonologist. He says Young never lost hope that he would heal and credits a change in diet, exercise and never missing a day of physical or pulmonary rehabilitation.

"Any patient that you see recover to the extent like Vic has recovered makes you feel proud of what you are doing," said Sahoo. "It gives you the energy to sustain working harder to care for these sick patients."

Young was one of the Cleveland Clinic’s first coronavirus patients to make it off a ventilator alive.

Sahoo says when the pandemic started, the learning curve was huge, and Young was among the early coronavirus patients who've helped create care plans to improve survival outcomes today.

"We've learned a lot on managing with medications, managing how to use the ventilator right, and that experience has taught us and helped us heal these patients better," said Dr. Sahoo.

A near-death experience put things into perspective for the COVID-19 survivor.

"My worldview is the same, but my sense of urgency has been ratcheted up," said Young. "Sort of a feeling that the time I have been given, I need to make sure it is used to help make this place better."

Faith was the couple's cornerstone before the pandemic, and they say surviving the unthinkable has only made their foundation unshakable.

"I am just thankful for him," said Marguerite Young. "My life was better the moment I met him and that's just true. So, I'm just so thankful that it was God's will for him to still be here."

"Me, too," said Victor Young. "I'm thankful for that, too!"

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Rebound Northeast Ohio News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:

Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.

Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.

Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.

Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.

We're Open! Northeast Ohio is place created by News 5 to open us up to new ways of thinking, new ways of gathering and new ways of supporting each other.

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Ohio, a timeline of Governor Mike DeWine's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Northeast Ohio, and link to more information from the Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the CDC and the WHO.

See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.

The CDC and the Ohio Department of Health are now recommending the use of cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Read more about the CDC's recommendation here. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make a face mask from common household materials, without having to know how to sew.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.