To Hell & Back: COVID meets its match trying to hurt the Hurt family; taking one woman to the brink of death


HOLTON, Kan. (KSNT) — After 46 days on a ventilator, the future didn’t come close to what Sandra Hurt’s life looks like now. Sandra was hospitalized at the end of May with COVID-19, believing she got sick when people in her family were positive as well.

“I was more worried about everyone else, that’s the mama in me,” Sandra Hurt said. “I worry about everyone else and not me, not realizing that I was the one that was really bad off.”

Sandra had a fever, a cough, and trouble breathing. That’s when she knew it was in her lungs. Her doctor gave her an oxygen reader. When her levels got to 78, which should be between 90 and 100, her doctor said to go to the ER right away.

“It’s an empty feeling, you leave your wife down there [at the hospital] and you have to turn around and go back to your quarantine,” Sandra’s husband Todd Hurt said.

Sandra Hurt at St. Francis Hospital in May.

COVID is a lonely disease. So there Sandra was in her hospital bed, scared, alone, and hurting.

The only way her husband and kids could check in with her was over the phone.

“I have a 3-minute voicemail of unintelligent speak, mom’s calling me trying to say something,” Sandra’s daughter Tara Hurt remembered.

“I called the nurses station and said, ‘hey, is there something wrong with my mom because she’s acting funny,” Stephanie Champlin, Sandra’s daughter said. “They [the nurses] said, ‘yeah, we’re going to have to put her on a ventilator.”

Tara Hurt said she later found out the night her mom left the voicemail is the same night she was put on the ventilator.

“The next two months, I don’t remember anything,” Sandra Hurt said.

Her family though, remembers it all too well.

“She’d have two good days and one really bad day,” Todd recalled. “So you’d lose everything she was gaining. It was a roller coaster for about three weeks. And she just kept getting worse.”

“We were getting these updates and they weren’t good in the beginning, they were horrible,” said Stephanie.

They didn’t get better either. All 46 days that Sandra was in the ICU were hard at home, but there’s one day, in particular, the Hurt family never wants to relive again.

“We got to a point where we were just stuck. She was a roller coaster all the time and we were just stuck,” Stephanie said.

Sandra’s doctors were worried there was nothing left to do and no more help to give. That left her family with a hard choice. Planning to say goodbye or keep fighting.

“That was tough. You don’t want to hold someone else’s life in your hands if you don’t want to. But we had kind of talked about it over the years and we both had our living wills and power of attorney, but you just gotta be the strong one. Gotta hold the family together,” Todd said.

“Are we going to lose mom?” Tara remembers thinking when she found out this was where things were at. “Am I going to wake up tomorrow and not have a mom?”

The three talked on a Monday night, knowing that Todd would have to go to the hospital Tuesday and make a choice. He decided to push the doctors to try just one more steroid, dexamethasone, one more day of hope and if that didn’t work they knew what would happen next.

But it did. The Hurt family got a call a few days after the first dose from doctors telling them Sandra’s scans and numbers were improving.

Sandra with her granddaughter two weeks before being admitted to the hospital.

“A big relief,” Todd said when thinking about how one day and one decision changed their whole life. “It was definitely easier driving home that day.”

Sandra was eventually released from St. Francis and went to rehab in Holton.

“All I wanted to do was get out of there, get home, and be with my family,” Sandra said. “My granddaughter was only two weeks old when I got sick, and then two months later, look at all I’ve missed.”

Sandra’s story proves that one day, one decision and the will to not give up can change your whole life.

“October could have looked a lot different if we wouldn’t have pushed as hard as we did,” Tara said.

What kept Todd from giving up? What made him push to see just another day of fight in Sandra?

“We had too many plans. Family and all that stuff. And I was just thinking about all the stuff she was going to miss out on. We’re definitely better together than not having one of us here.”

If you’re still not convinced that one day can change your life, take it from the woman herself.

“I got the biggest second chance anybody could ever wish for. And I thank God every day for all the blessings he has given me,” Sandra said. “I hope by saying this to you, if there’s somebody out there [fighting COVID], they just can’t give up. You just can’t give up.”

Because COVID met its match when it tried to hurt the Hurt’s.

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