WATERLOO — A Clarksville pastor hospitalized with COVID-19 has improved enough to start being weaned off of a ventilator, according to his son.
Val Swinton remains in critical condition at MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center, where he’s been since March 26 after fainting at home. 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.
Sam Swinton said his dad, who had been in a medically induced coma since shortly after arriving at the hospital, started “turning a corner” Friday on the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. Prior to that, medical staff had warned it might be difficult for his father to recover if progress on measures like his breathing didn’t begin occurring.
“It was a joy and shell shock, because you’ve prepared yourself for your father’s death and then the next day you get a phone call saying ‘Hey, things are looking better,’” said Sam. “And he’s just been improving every day since.”
The hospital has been lowering the medication that immobilizes Val as his condition improves, but he has largely not been conscious. He hasn’t had a fever since the middle of last week and was removed from blood pressure medication over the weekend.
With the help of a nurse’s iPhone, Sam and his fiance spent about an hour Saturday evening talking to Val from Des Moines, where they live, over a video link to his hospital bedside. He hadn’t seemed conscious, but when saying goodbye they “saw him moving around and opening his eyes,” said Sam. “That was a pretty emotional experience.”
The improvements have continued since then, Sam said in a Monday interview.
“I got a call yesterday from the doctors and they said they were impressed with his progress,” Sam noted, based on how severe his condition had been. That includes a continual reduction in the percentage of oxygen levels he is receiving through the ventilator.
Earlier Monday, medical staff told him Val is receiving 35% oxygen through the ventilator, down from 100% when he was first put on it. There is about 21% oxygen in the air.
“Since he’s so low, they’re going to start weaning him off of the ventilator,” said Sam, which is expected to take three to four days. “The x-rays show his lungs are improved quite a bit just from where they were a week ago.”
If progress continues, he would be moved out of the intensive care unit to the general hospital area next week.
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