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“There’s always hope for miracles”: Waterloo couple, daughters reflect on COVID-19 battle

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Trisha Fam For Web

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL)- When it comes to COVID-19, Bob and Jeri Bartz checked all the wrong boxes.

"We were fully aware that you know it could go the opposite way in so many cases have," the couple's daughter Tracey said.

Bob was fully aware of the virus but said he thought it was nothing and would disappear as soon as the election ended.

It didn't, and days after the election, both Bob and Jeri tested positive for COVID-19. They were admitted to the hospital days apart.

"I almost hate to admit to anybody that heard me say that," he said. "Then I got it, and it changed my mind. You don't want to get it."

It started with a trip to the emergency room at MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center on November 6th. The couple's granddaughter drove them. Bob was admitted, and Jeri followed two days later.

"I thought I was fine, and then they said I had COVID, so I needed to stay," Jeri said. "Next thing I knew, I was put on a ventilator, and I didn't even realize that I was having trouble breathing."

Jeri doesn't remember much from when she was on a ventilator in the ICU because she was sedated. After about a week, she'd had enough.

"Evidently, I got tired subconsciously, and I just ripped it out," she said. "The nurses weren't thrilled with me."

For daughters Trisha and Traci, it was an unnerving and, at times, frustrating wait for any information on how their parents were doing.

"We had a lot of periods of crying on the phone together, just trying to get through it and encourage each other," Trisha said. "We had a lot of family and friends that were doing the same, lifting our family up in prayer."

As a nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, Trisha has seen firsthand the severity of the virus and how quickly a patient's health can go up and down.

"We were able to FaceTime with Dad because we had taken his phone with him, but with mom being in the ICU, we really relied on the nurses that were able to call us back after we had called," Traci said. "They would take the iPad, and they would do zoom calls. I mean, she couldn't respond or anything, but she could at least hear all of us and see all of our faces."

For 12 days, Bob and Jeri battled COVID in separate parts of the hospital. Alone, worried, and without a clue of how the other was faring. That was until his nurses told him he had to move rooms.

"I said, why," Bob said. "He said well your wife is coming up with you. I was elated."

For the last week and half of their hospital stay, the couple was in the same room. The hospital staff made it happen after Jeri was taken off a ventilator and out of the ICU.

"It was wonderful to be able to see him and know that he's alive," Jeri said. "He wasn't kicking, but he was alive, and we were both together."

Even though they could only see them through video chat, Bob and Jeri's daughters say the difference when the couple began sharing a room was palpable.

"When they brought her in, I smiled and said 'Hi.' And she said "Hi' to me back," Bob said. "It was almost unbelievable that they were able to make it happen."

"You almost start immediately feeling the support of the person that you have been with her for 38 years," Jeri said. "I was pulling on his strength, he was pulling on my strength, and we were able to encourage each other."

On Thanksgiving night, both were discharged from the hospital. They were battered and bruised but grateful to have emerged from battle victorious.

"We got through this," Jeri said. "We met our Goliath and had our battle fought for us."

The couple is still recovering from their bouts with the virus. They came home a lot weaker than they expected.

"I even went around the block with the help of a walker yesterday," Bob said. "I felt like I was back already."

Family and friends held a drive-by parade to celebrate their recovery. The support brings Bob to tears.

"That was just amazing," he said.

2020 has been a tough year for so many in our community. At times hope has seemed elusive. As he battled double pneumonia in the hospital, Bob said he was at the point where he wanted to give up hope, but his daughters kept him going.

"They checked all the boxes for a terrible outcome," Traci said. "They overcame it. There is hope. There's always hope for miracles."

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