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FIRST-CLASS TICKET — Dejah Thomas, a nurse at AdventHealth Fish Memorial in Orange City, holds a “boarding pass” as COVID-19 survivor Robert Deprins prepares to leave the hospital May 9.

AdventHealth nurses always are diligent and supportive when they care for patients, but recently a cadre of nurses at a hospital in Orange City went way above and beyond for one patient.

On March 31, Robert Deprins, 64, a healthy, active, flight attendant for more than 20 years, came to the ER at AdventHealth Fish Memorial with a fever, loss of appetite and respiratory issues, including a dry, nonproductive cough. In the ER, the DeBary resident tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to the hospital’s designated COVID-19 unit.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but if I had waited one or two more days, it would have been too late for me,” he said.

As with many COVID-19 patients, Deprins’ health declined rapidly and he was moved to the intensive care unit and intubated for more than three weeks.

As Deprins spent nearly six weeks fighting COVID-19 at Fish Memorial, the care team truly bonded with him — praying with him nightly and celebrating his 64th birthday with his favorite Black Forest cake.

Deprins’ family lives abroad, and he doesn’t have any family in the U.S. The team at AdventHealth Fish Memorial emailed his family in Belgium regularly and spoke with his sister and mother via phone often, providing them with updates on his health.

The nursing team in essence “adopted” Deprins, since he was virtually an orphan. His being alone inspired the team members to do more for him than they actually had to do.

When he was able to get off the ventilator, he was very weak and had lost a lot of muscle mass. He couldn’t walk by himself, but he was very driven, motivated and determined to walk again and return to his work as a flight attendant.

The physical therapy team worked with him daily to help him regain his strength, and about a week before he was discharged, he was able to walk on his own.

“To go from an active person — I’m not overweight, I don’t drink or smoke — but in a matter of a few weeks, to not even be able to open a can of ginger ale, to not be able to walk, this virus is very serious,” he said.

On May 9, he was able to leave AdventHealth Fish Memorial and was strong enough to drive himself home. To celebrate his return home, a nurse’s daughter created an “airline ticket” as a discharging boarding pass, and the staff lined the hallways to cheer him on.

“I came to the hospital unprepared, unaware that I would stay for so long,” he said. “I didn’t pack a bag, I didn’t have a cellphone charger or shaving kit.”

The team at AdventHealth Fish Memorial made special arrangements to ensure he had a smooth transition back home. The hospital’s kitchen team cooked and packaged meals for him, and the hospital sent someone home with him to help him get settled. They prepped his home, cleaned out his fridge, and went grocery shopping for him.

AdventHealth Home Health nurses, as well as physical and occupational therapists, continued providing care in his home.

He is now negative for COVID-19 and, on May 30, he officially returned to work as a flight attendant.