Mercy Medical Center's first COVID-19 patient on miraculous road to recovery

Published: Apr. 10, 2020 at 6:46 PM CDT
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A Solon man is thankful that he can now breathe on his own and walk, but his recovery is not over yet.

Alan Stolba was Mercy Medical Center's first COVID-19 case.

"This is the fight of my life,” said Stolba.

And, it's a fight that he is determined to overcome. His daily routine is now physical, speech and occupational therapy sessions.

It’s a milestone he's thankful to make it to - but never once thought he'd have to go through. On March 24th, he found out he was positive for COVID-19, after having symptoms during work on one of his trips as a truck driver.

“I got real hot like I was going to get stick, got disoriented and when I got back to Cedar Rapids they made me come down here and then I tested. I wanted to go home and I think if I went home that day I would of died there," he said.

Stolba was one of Mercy's most severe cases. Four days after being admitted and getting worse, he was put on ventilator and in a medically-induced coma.

"I had some pretty wild dreams and I would have killed for a drink of water," he said.

It a horrifying moment for his two kids - Vicki and Jeff - who couldn't be by his side.

"It was unbearable. We couldn't see him we couldn't talk to him. He was fighting this by himself. I mean the nurses and doctors were great but he couldn't have family," said Alan’s daughter Nicki Golden.

They were only able to get updates from the hospital over the phone.

"The last few days, he was getting better and it was tears of joy," said Alan’s son, Jeff Stolba.

He was taken off life support on April 1st and moved to the inpatient unit 7 days later, and finally, they were able to see him this week, reaching milestones and getting back to himself.

"He went from walking 3 feet to two days later, 100 feet, and the next day 500 feet," said Jeff. "And he's going to keep on trucking."

"It’s tough, you got to push yourself. I'm weak but I'll get there," said Alan.

For him, this miracle means even more this Good Friday.

"It’s just like being reborn. I'm telling you the devil was standing there, holding the door open and I got well wishes from around the world and I can't thank them people enough," Alan said.

The previously healthy 67-year-old says he still doesn't know how he got the virus, but says he owes his life to the doctors.

For now, he's taking it day by day, expecting to go home in the next couple of weeks, and what he's looking forward to is simple.

“I'm going to drink a lot of cold water, drink a lot of cold water and just be able to be outside and breathe air," said Stolba.