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Iowa City man spends 152 days in fight against COVID-19 infection

Neil Bennett and his family were on the Egyptian cruise that was the source of many of the early coronavirus cases in Iowa.
Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 7:49 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - 74-year-old Neil Bennett, of Iowa City, and his wife Jeanne, along with his daughter Gwen, had the Egyptian cruise of a lifetime.

But, when they returned to Iowa City, Neil started to feel sick and was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We did the Egyptian travel and it was several days after we return home when the symptoms surfaced,” Neil said.

The disease hit Neil much harder than it did his wife and daughter.

“In my case I ended up on the floor unable to get up,” Neil said.

That left Jeanne scrambling to call 911 for help.

“He collapsed. I cannot pick him up,” Jeanne said. “They came and took him to the hospital, called me and said his kidneys have almost shut down.”

It wasn’t long after Neil was admitted to the hospital that things turned much worse.

“Mom called that night and said that he had fallen,” Gwen said. “She was waiting for the ambulance to come. And then I got the call the next morning that he had been intubated.”

Neil has no memory of what happened after he arrived at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on March 10.

“I have absolutely no memory of the several weeks of treatment at University Hospitals. When I was in Davenport I went there with a tracheotomy and I remember that,” Neil said. “But I don’t remember the ventilator in the ICU.”

One of the cruelest things about COVID-19 is keeping families away from each other.

“When he was at his most critical, there was simply no way for mom to go be with him. That was just gut-wrenching day after day after day,” Gwen said.

Bennett spent 152 days away from his family battling to stay alive. It was touch-and-go on many of those nights.

“Very blessed and very thankful. I am fortunate to be alive,” Neil said. “There were several days when I was in the ICU at the university where it was uncertain whether I would actually live.”

That long stay in the hospital was a nightmare for those who love Neil.

In part two, Scott Saville show the support Neil Bennett got as he left the hospital after a 152-day fight against COVID-19.

“So you go to bed crying you lie awake thinking the phone is going to ring,” Jeanne said. “You just think God every hour passes that it hasn’t rung.”

It has been a long journey for Neil, and he would like to thank all the health care workers who helped save his life.

“I think we need to say great thank you to great, the great doctors and nurses and staff at ICU at the University Hospitals,” Neil said.

The number of employees there who pitched in was large.

“Dad had a team of 26 nurses and doctors when he was in ICU at the University of Iowa,” Gwen said.

“Pardon me if I get all teary-eyed here but the performance of the doctors and the people, really all along the way. Five months later maybe I can sleep in my own bed,” Neil said.

“I just think God and thank everybody for all your help. Doctors, nurses, caregivers bless you all,” Jeanne said.

Coming up in part two on Thursday night, Scott shows the glorious day when Neil was finally reunited with his family and friends.

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