Courtesy of Chesterton Tribune • April 1, 2020
On Tuesday, Methodist Hospital Southlake Campus in Merrillville released its first COVID-19 patient, two weeks after admitting the 46-year-old man, identified as Lonta L. Ash Sr.
According to Methodist Hospital, on Thursday, March 12, Ash woke feeling fine but by that night he had begun experiencing “great difficulty breathing.”
“I thought it was my asthma and that I was going to be okay,” Ash said.
But by the following Saturday he could barely breathe and had his wife drive him to the ER at the Southlake Campus. Ash spent Saturday night in the ER and was admitted to hospital on Sunday, March 15, where he spent 16 hours in intensive care after testing positive for COVID-19. Ash was subsequently transferred to one of the dedicated COVID-19 units established at both the Southlake and Northlake campuses.
“I was in a state of shock,” said Ash, Methodist Hospital’s first diagnosed COVID-19 patient. “I couldn’t believe it and was very frightened. I never thought in a million years it would be this.”
Methodist Hospital said that Ash’s case was complicated by two underlying medical conditions which put him at higher risk for severe illness: lifelong asthma and diabetes, the latter of which he was diagnosed with five years ago. “My doctors and nurses were concerned about everything, including my other conditions and told me I made it just in time,” Ash said.
Ash was released on Saturday, March 28, and is now resting at home. “They nursed me to get out of there to go home,” Ash said. “There were times that I didn’t think it would happen, but I made it.”
The day before his release, Methodist Hospital delivered oxygen tanks to Ash’s home, where he is currently sleeping with oxygen at night. Ash is slowly gaining strength and said that he understands full recovery will be slow. “They said it would take a while for a full recovery because of my asthma. I’ll keep on taking my medicine and I’ll get there.”
Ash added that he would recommend Methodist Hospital to anyone. “All the nurses were great,” he said. “They were really in on it. I appreciate all the people who helped me and were there for me. I had people who care.”
Ash is currently self-isolating in home as a precaution, and he, his wife, and son are all living in separate rooms, and he will not leave his house until the pandemic has subsided. “I know I’ve got to move slowly but I’m looking forward to going to work and getting back to my normal self,” he said.
Ash’s message to everyone: COVID-19 can happen to anyone. “This is scary because you see it on the news but you don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” he said. “It just hit me so fast.”