Since Thanksgiving, Belle Plaine resident Tom Bartholomew has been in and out of the hospital dealing with complications due to COVID-19.
His wife, Nikki, was the first one to test positive for the coronavirus in late November. At the time, Bartholomew tested negative and took care of making meals for Nikki while she quarantined in the basement.
While he worked on preparing Thanksgiving dinner, he began to feel sick as well.
“I cooked the turkey and had squash ready to go in the oven,” he said. “As I started finishing off the meal, it was just like somebody pulled the plug on me.”
He said his temperature rose to 103 degrees and that he had trouble breathing and forming coherent sentences.
He called the Ridgeview ambulance and was taken to Ridgeview Hospital in Waconia, but there were no rooms available that night.
He then had to be transported to Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park where he tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent home to recover with an antibiotic.
Bartholomew, who is in his late 70s, had several underlying conditions that made his recovery more difficult, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which damages the lungs and makes it harder to breath.
“From the time I was diagnosed with COVID-19, I’ve had very little energy,” he said. “I sit in the living room watching TV with oxygen on and the fan blowing on me to let my body cool off. That’s been my routine since Thanksgiving.”
Bartholomew said some days were better than others, but on Dec. 9, he started to experience severe symptoms again.
His wife drove him to Ridgeview Hospital where the doctors suspected he had pneumonia as well.He was given medication and sent home again.
For the next several weeks, he stayed on his oxygen machine at all times. Then on Christmas Eve, his symptoms flared up yet again.
“I wasn’t going to fool around with it so I called the ambulance and they took me up and this time they decided they were going to keep me,” he said.
He was admitted to Ridgeview’s Intensive Care Unit for several days where he received the antiviral medication Remdesivir, which consisted of a five- day treatment using an IV for an hour and a half every day.
“It got real lonely. My wife and I were FaceTiming. We would turn it on and even if nobody said anything we knew the other person was there,” he said.
Though he felt isolated, he was so grateful to have received excellent care from both the hospital and ambulance staff.
“I was so impressed with the way they took me in and took care of me right away. I was a person to them,” he said.
So when he was released from the hospital on December 29, he started working on a plan to show his gratitude.
He decided that he could buy everyone lunch and have it delivered directly to the hospital.
“While COVID-19 is around, we need to be supporting local businesses as well,” he said.
He immediately thought of contacting D'Vinci's in Waconia, because the restaurant had been so generous to the Belle Plaine community over the years.
Bartholomew, who is vice president of the Belle Plaine Area Food Shelf, contacted D'Vinci's owner Christopher Grossinger more than a decade ago to see if the restaurant would be interested in donating to the organization.
Grossinger agreed and has been donating ever since.
“He thought, 'You know what? You guys always help out the food shelf so I'm calling you.' It was one of those pay it forward moments,” said Grossinger.
Grossinger subsidized a portion of the 70 meals of lasagna, salad, and bread sticks and delivered them to three separate hospital shifts on Monday, Jan. 4.
“We are just grateful to our community. We are all in this together,” Grossinger said.
Bartholomew was unable to see the meals be delivered but was excited to know that the staff members who cared for him would be receiving something special in return.
Now, he is slowly recovering at his home in Belle Plaine. Though he is starting to feel better, he said that getting sick with COVID-19 more than a month ago is still dramatically impacting his life today.