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Murrells Inlet man beats COVID-19 after 4 weeks in the ICU

Health

Murrells Inlet man beats COVID-19 after 4 weeks in the ICU

Health Murrells Inlet resident Mark Mistretta, pictured with his wife, Victoria, spent four weeks in the ICU at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in a life-threatening battle with COVID-19.

Murrells Inlet resident Mark Mistretta, pictured with his wife, Victoria, spent four weeks in the ICU at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in a life-threatening battle with COVID-19.

Standing and facing the seat of a chair, Mark Mistretta grips the armrests with both hands, takes a deep breath and waits for the signal from physical therapist Pam DiGiovanna.
On cue, he suddenly and quickly stretches one foot behind him, then forward, then the same with the other foot, picking up the pace as he runs in place – hands still gripping the armrests – with a burst of energy for 20 seconds that he will repeat three more times.
Sounds like a simple exercise, but for a man who spent four weeks in the ICU battling COVID-19 over the summer, it’s quite a feat.

'Things got progressively worse'

Mistretta, 60, caught COVID-19 in late July amid the surge in cases and hospitalizations fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant. Always a pillar of good health, he didn’t get the vaccine because “you wouldn’t think COVID would have hit me so hard.”
So when he felt a bit under the weather in late July, he figured he had a cold. He stayed home and medicated for a couple of days with over-the-counter cold remedies that didn’t seem to do much good.
“But then things got progressively worse,” Mistretta said. “My fever ticked up, and I had an overall feeling that something was not right.”
By the third day, Mistretta was in the emergency department at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital with an oxygen level in the 60s. With dangerously low blood oxygen levels, Mistretta went straight to the intensive care unit.
He’d stay there for the next four weeks.

Mistretta worked with Tidelands Health physical therapist Pam DiGiovanna to help regain his strength and stamina after his hospitalization for COVID-19.

Mistretta worked with Tidelands Health physical therapist Pam DiGiovanna to help regain his strength and stamina after his hospitalization for COVID-19.

“We were involved with him right away,” said Dr. Desmond Young, a pulmonologist with Tidelands Health. “He came in through the emergency department and was in pretty bad shape. I remember him staying very positive. I’m encouraged by those patients because there is something to that.”
The determination Mistretta inherited from his father helped him push through, even during those times when he couldn’t get enough air to even speak a word. Mistretta was always inspired by his tough dad, who had beaten colon and prostate cancers.
“I never thought for one second I wouldn’t get through this and get on with my life,” Mistretta said.

Turn for the better

Thanks to the expert care of the hospital professionals combined with his determination to get better, Mistretta avoided being intubated, a technique used to help the sickest patients breathe. His care team helped him lay on his stomach, which is called the prone position and helps get more oxygen into the lungs.
“He was on the edge of having to be intubated. Thankfully, he never required mechanical ventilation,” Dr. Young said.
After a month, Mistretta had beat COVID-19. But now, he had to regain his strength and movement after being in the ICU for weeks. The next stop before heading home: inpatient rehabilitation at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital at Murrells Inlet, an affiliate of Encompass Health. He stayed there for 18 days, leaving in much better shape than when he arrived.
“I went from not being able to stand or get up out of a chair to walking around on my own with a walker,” Mistretta said. “I was highly motivated. I’ve got life to live.
“It’s work. It’s going to hurt, and you are going to be sore, but that is the principle behind it.”

He recalls an inspiring sign in the rehabilitation hospital reminding him that the “difference between try and triumph is the ‘umph.’ ”
Mistretta brought the umph. After being released from the rehabilitation hospital, he continued outpatient rehabilitation at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services at Murrells Inlet. He wrapped up six weeks of therapy visits with a high level of function that clears him to do full yard work, heavy lifting and more.
“He really has progressed incredibly quickly from the state he was in with COVID-19,” DiGiovanna said. “His story of recovery is quite amazing.”
Mistretta doesn’t take it for granted. He’s doing all he can to stay healthy, including buying exercise equipment and talking with DiGiovanna about the workouts he can continue to do at home. And most importantly, after waiting the recommended three months, he received the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in November with plans to finish the two-shot regimen.
“First and foremost, get the vaccine,” Mistretta said is his message to others. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. Some people will get COVID and shake it off in a couple of days. But then there’s people like me – perfectly healthy – and it hit me hard.”

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