The fact that Mike Decker is back in his Oakdale home helping his wife Jan Decker with the vacuuming and washing dishes as much as he can, is nothing short of a miracle, says his wife – and not for the obvious joke of husbands and housework.
Mike has been at death’s door more times this year than Jan cares to recount. He contracted COVID-19 in January and spent the next several months on a ventilator, in and out of consciousness and developing one life-threatening complication after another. Eventually, with his life in the balance, Mike would have to make the gut-wrenching decision to have his leg amputated. After the amputation and everything else that followed, Mike was finally able to come back home to his wife of 17 years and is eager to regain his strength and independence, even if it does include household chores.
Mike has always been a fit and active individual. He grew up working on a farm in Indiana, where he lived until he turned 18 and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was shipped out to Vietnam, where he served 13 months. He remained in the Army for seven years before beginning a long career as a postman. Even after retiring, he would walk two miles a day around his Oakdale neighborhood. But all that strength vanished when COVID-19 began ravaging his body.
“Covid takes everything out of you,” Mike said.
The Deckers had been vigilant in their efforts to keep from catching COVID-19, so it came as such a blow when he tested positive.
“We thought we were being so good,” Jan said. “We would not go anywhere without our masks. We didn’t even do Christmas with our family.”
The couple suspects Mike may have contacted it while undergoing physical therapy for a torn rotator cuff. It was around the second week of January that Mike began to feel unwell. Then it was a rapid decline to the point that his oxygen got to a “really scary number” Jan said, and he was rushed to the hospital.
“I remember our daughter took me to the hospital and I remember the guy checking my blood pressure and my temperature and that’s it, until I woke up in a hospital bed,” Mike said.
“They put him under so fast that I didn’t get a reply when I texted him asking ‘Are you okay?’” There was no answer and I kept texting and still no answers were coming,” Jan said.
When the doctors did get in touch with Jan, it was not welcome news that they brought. Jan was told that Mike had developed blood clots and that his chance of survival was at five percent.
“He had extensive blood clots in his leg,” Jan said. “They tried to get rid of the blood clots, but even after hours of surgery, they couldn’t get them because it would go to the next place. They couldn’t stop it.”
The doctors said Mike’s leg would need to be amputated below the knee if there was any chance to for survival. The decision was made to proceed, but 10 days later the clots were still an issue and this time the doctors had to amputate higher up, above the knee.
The operation worked and slowly Mike began to recuperate. He was sent to a subacute care facility to continue his road to recovery. But the facility, which the Deckers did not want to name, was understaffed and all the progress that he had made vanished in a short time. He developed two separate infections and had a fever of 104F.
“It almost killed him again,” Jan said.
“I remember them putting paddles on my chest, Mike said.
Mike was rushed back to Kaiser hospital and again the days and weeks would creep by with him drifting in and out of consciousness. At any opportunity she had, Jan was talking to Mike, whether it be to tell him the news of the day or to tell him how much he was needed and loved, she wanted him to hear her voice.
“It was just so he would have a sense that there was something to fight for,” Jan said.
And fight he did. Mike was cleared to move out of the hospital in April, but rather than go to another care facility, he and Jan decided to bring him home and continue his recovery there.
Since coming home, Mike has been making progress towards regaining his strength and stamina. But there is still much to overcome, both physically and financially. His family has established a GoFundMe account to help Mike and Jan with medical expenses and to purchase a quality prosthetic, so that he can get back out and active. The couple has a goal of traveling to see their granddaughter, who was five weeks old when they last saw her and is now two years old.
“We’ve lost that time and we are anxious to get out there again and live our lives,” Jan said.
“This has given me a new appreciation for life,” Mike said. “Even the little things like vacuuming and doing the dishes.”
The GoFundMe link is available at https://ie.gofundme.com/f/mike-deckers-covid-recovery-fight.