Glenn Harla said he remembers a dream he had about his wife.
“She sleeps on her back with her forearm on her head,” he said. “I saw her there and reached out to her. Then she disappeared. She was there in spirit.
That dream occurred sometime during his 44 days (33 in ICU) at TriStar Summit Medical Center in Hermitage beating back the ravages of COVID-19. Harla, 66, said the time there hooked up to “so many machines,” including a ventilator, is just a blurry memory.
Harla said he crushed COVID-19 only with the help of God, many prayers and a team of about 80 doctors and nurses. He said his doctors told him he nearly died three times.
“I remember a nurse holding a phone up to me. I’m told at one point they asked my wife, Chris, my daughter, Kelly, and son-in-law Ryan Frederick, to come outside the glass and say their final goodbye to me,” he said quietly.
Chris also fought COVID-19, but her case was far less severe and her recovery time was shorter.
When Harla was released from the hospital, many hospital staff members joined his family in the lobby to congratulate him. All wore masks.
The Mt. Juliet Police Department provided an escort to his home in the Cobblestone Landing subdivision where many friends, family and friendly strangers lined the streets with signs, waves and smiles as they welcomed Harla home.
The family factor
Around March 25 Harla had flu-like symptoms. His doctor told him to get tested for the virus.
“It was positive,” he said. “My oxygen level was about 90.”
Chris said she did not come down with COVID-19 until five days after Glenn. Her symptoms were milder than his and she was in quarantine for seven days.
“I thought Glenn would get over it,” she said. “And he didn’t.”
Glenn self-quarantined for a few days and then the bucket fell out quickly.
“It happened so fast,” said Glenn, who said he did not have any other medical conditions and has never smoked. “I was on a ventilator for many weeks.”
When the doctors tried to ease him off the ventilator, he hit the wall several times. A doctor put Harla on medicine used to treat arthritis and that bolstered him.
He got worse again and measures were enacted such as “prone positioning” where he was put on his stomach to relieve pneumonia. Antibodies were flown in from the Mayo Clinic.
“I think these, combined with the arthritis medicine, were my miracle cures,” Harla said. “Until there is a vaccine.
“I remember asking God to save me. I told Him I did not want to go and I wanted to live.”
Chris said prior to her husband’s hospital stay, she spent two days a week as a home care nurse after retiring from her career in nursing. She said her nursing background was “somewhat helpful.”
“I knew and understood what was going on with him,” she said. “But, medically, it was hard knowing what can happen in a negative way. I tried to stay positive.”
She said that Ryan was “our rock.”
“He helped hold me up through it all,” she said. “Ryan took over the calls to check up on Glenn. When I was doing that, I would just start crying.”
Chris said that her husband now receives a home care nurse. She said it’s not protocol for a nurse to take care of a family member, but she can do everything needed for her husband of 42 years at home if needed.
“I just can’t be as objective as I need to be,” she said.
Harla also praised his son-in-law. Ryan kept the family informed through texts. After Harla was released, Ryan sent pizzas to all those who saved his father-in-law’s life.
Recovering at home
Harla has decided he’s going to retire from his job as office manager at Ground Penetrating Radar Services. He said the company CEO texted him and told Harla how glad he was about his recovery.
“But I gave my notice of retirement,” he said with a laugh. “It’s the easiest decision I’ve ever made. Even though I can run circles around the young ones.”
Harla said he has new goals after beating the virus.
“God gave me a second chance at life,” he said. “It’s going to be all about my wife, family and friends. I just want to sit on my back porch, drink coffee and pet my dogs.”
He said his two dogs nearly knocked him down when he walked through the front door last week.
Harla also requires dialysis three times a week now because of the affect the virus had on his kidneys. He has a simple message to his team of caregivers.
“Thank you for saving my life,” he said. “It was their teamwork. I hope I give hope to anyone else going through this. It’s not about me, but about others. This has taught me further to reach out to people in need.”