COVID-19 survivor grateful to medical workers who saved his life

“Dr. Ball, who was a pulmonologist, that guy saved my life”
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 4:13 PM MST
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — When you first learn that Jonathan Van Wagoner is an off-road driving instructor, it comes as no surprise he doesn’t like the word “scared.”

After all, it’s his job to help others overcome their fears. But while recovering from his battle with COVID-19, he saw that when things had taken a turn for the worse, he had used that very word.

“I sent some text messages to some friends saying I was really scared, reading that back through, I was like ‘man, that was definitely a really intense experience,” said Van Wagoner.

Van Wagoner, a father of four, was visiting family while on his way to Las Vegas last summer. What initially appeared to be standard COVID-19 symptoms shifted into him having trouble breathing, and it got worse from there.

When he was moved into the ICU at St Luke’s Magic Valley in Twin Falls was when things took a turn. “That’s about the time that things were just like ‘this isn’t good,’ because you hear the stories of the people that don’t come back out of the ICU,” Van Wagoner said.

He wound up spending six weeks in the hospital, but his journey wasn’t over upon release. He lost over 50 lbs during his hospital stay and had to re-learn how to walk.

He has yet to return to work, a result of lung damage caused by the virus. He has gone through numerous hours of physical and pulmonary therapy.

So while some have resolutions of hitting the gym this New Year or starting a new hobby, Van Wagoner’s New Year is a bit more simple.

“I am very very grateful to be alive. I’m grateful to be in my kids’ lives,” he said.

Van Wagoner had a message for the medical workers who assisted him. “All I could think about was those people who took care of me knowing if they didn’t take care of me, if they didn’t do the job that they did, that I wouldn’t have been able to celebrate Christmas with my family.”

Van Wagoner also thanked one doctor in particular. “Dr. Ball, who was a pulmonologist, that guy saved my life for reals.”

He also had a message to the community, saying “I think the vaccine is a beneficial thing for people to get. If I would’ve had it, if it would’ve eliminated my experience in the hospital and not stuck me in the ICU. I think I would’ve rather that happened.”

At the end of the day, Van Wagoner says he encourages people not to live in fear and to do what they can to live their life to the fullest.

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