Utah Medical Milestone: After 223 Days in the Hospital, Grateful COVID Patient Who Battled Death Four Times Goes Home Thanks to Intermountain Caregivers

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Utah, a glimmer of hope, resilience and determination are realized as a 59-year-old COVID-19 Utah patient goes home for the first time after spending 223 days in the hospital. 

Thomas Kearl’s COVID-19 journey began on his birthday, January 11, 2021, when he came to the emergency room at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray with a temperature of 103.

He was sent home to recover, but then quickly found himself back in the emergency room a few days later, starting what he calls, “the most painful eight months he’d ever experienced.”

“Through the process, the nurses and my family told me that I coded out, and that’s code language for, I died. I didn’t want to die,” said an emotional Thom during a news conference on Thursday. “I have too much to live for I love my family, I love my children, I love my three grandkids.”

When Kearl finally left Intermountain Medical Center last Tuesday, a sea of his Intermountain Healthcare caregivers gathered to say goodbye, offer their congratulations, and celebrate his amazing recovery. 

It was an emotional moment for caregivers, as Kearl fought back tears of gratitude.

“223 days in the hospital is an incredibly long time,” said Peter Crossno, MD, Intermountain Healthcare critical care and pulmonary physician. “It’s probably the longest I’ve had a patient in the ICU, that I can recall.”

Kearl and his caregivers are now sharing the story of how he was resuscitated four times, intubated five times, and given CPR for 17 minutes. He also had to relearn to walk and talk so he could go home.

“I think one of the bright spots in rehabilitation is we get to see some of these victories when the patient gets to go home and get better,” said John Frampton, MD, Intermountain Healthcare physical medicine and rehabilitation physician.

Dr. Frampton also said the physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists all worked as a team to help Kearl recover and heal emotionally as well as physically.

Kearl called the doctors, nurses, and all who took care of him his, “guardian angels.”

“They saved my life and I’m grateful for them. I don’t know how to save my life, but I know who does and that’s where I put my trust,” said Kearl.

Kearl says he came to love his hospital family and now misses them, “But there’s no place like home, as Dorthy would say in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

Thomas Kearl’s COVID-19 journey began on his birthday and ended 223 days later when he left Intermountain Medical Center.