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Clarksville minister, stricken with COVID-19, heading home after 21 days in hospital

Clarksville minister, stricken with COVID-19, heading home after 21 days in hospital

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series

WATERLOO — A Clarksville pastor is returning home Wednesday after being hospitalized 21 days with COVID-19.

Val Swinton has been recovering at MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center since being taken off a ventilator April 7. Prior to that, he had largely been in a medically induced coma as his body battled the coronavirus, which caused the respiratory illness. During much of the past week, he has been regaining speech and the ability to move.

Swinton has even gotten on Facebook, where he was the first to announce his release from the hospital. The news is a relief for family members, who have been on an “emotional roller coaster” since he was admitted March 26 after fainting at home, said son Sam.

“I’m exhausted, my family’s exhausted. But right now we’re just so happy we can finally get him back,” said Sam, who will be picking him up at the hospital.

Clarksville minister with COVID-19 improving, but still critical

“At 11:30 tomorrow morning,” he said Tuesday afternoon, “I’ll be taking Dad home, and he’ll be a free man, so to speak.”

The 67-year-old has been the minister at Clarksville Church of Christ for more than two decades. He was also Clarksville’s mayor for four years until the end of 2019 and spent the prior four years on the city council.

Since Swinton regained consciousness, his son has talked with him three to four times every day.

At first, those were “very short minute or two conversations,” said Sam. But as the days progressed, he grew “more lucid and aware,” his son noted. “Just every day he started sounding more like himself.”

Family seeks prayers for Clarksville minister hospitalized with COVID-19

Sam said hospital staff got him up and moving quickly, as well. “They pretty much right away started doing occupational and physical therapy.”

Swinton’s wife, Deb, may have had some symptoms initially when he went to the hospital and spent time in self quarantine at home. Hospital staff told her “maybe a week ago she could start having guests at the house,” said Sam. “She’s doing significantly better.”

The has illness taken a toll on Swinton, who is 20 pounds lighter, said his son, and heading into “a couple weeks of pretty intensive physical therapy.”

Nonetheless, it’s a dramatic turnaround for the family — which also includes daughter, Laura, and her husband, and Sam’s son and fiance. At one point after Swinton had been admitted to the hospital, the family feared he would die. But in communications with the many people following the saga, they kept the tone positive and got a flood of support.

In recent days, Sam told his father that there were “literally thousands praying for him and sending him positive energy.” His father “got choked up, I could hear him.”

“I’m still receiving Facebook messages on a daily basis and phone calls almost on a daily basis, just reaching out and giving support,” he added, marveling at people’s kindness and concern. “It’s just breathtaking.”

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Staff Writer

After 18-plus years reporting on local education, I’ve graduated to covering the city of Cedar Falls. Family and church commitments keep me busy outside of work along with lots of biking, rowing and skiing – pretty good for a guy with fake hips.

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