CLAYTON – Kyle Whiting is in the highest form of resuscitation days before his wedding.
Mr. Whiting’s battle with COVID-19 has progressed to the point where he now has a 1 in 5 chance of living.
Mr. Whiting, 26, grew up in Adams and now lives in Clayton with his fiancee, Reba Gushlaw. They planned, saved up and waited until last year to get married. The wedding was scheduled for Saturday, but five days before the ceremony, Mr. Whiting was placed on an ECMO machine.
An ECMO, which stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, will oxygenate the blood from outside the body and then inject it back. It is often described as a way to give the body a break. Instead of marrying Ms Gushlaw on his family’s farm, Mr Whiting had switched from a ventilator to a machine oxygenating his blood for him. He is fighting for his life, while his family relies on his presence on Saturday. Mr. Whiting has not been vaccinated, and now his mother is hoping to help others by sharing her battle with a variant of COVID-19.
“They didn’t give us much hope,” said her mother, Shalene Whiting. “Some say he could recover, and others bluntly tell me that I have never seen someone so bad recover. His intensive care doctor said he had COVID as bad as COVID can. ‘to be. “
Mr. Whiting grew up attending South Jefferson High School before moving to Clayton after graduation. He now works in a redemption center there and has been with Ms. Gushlaw for about five years. They knew each other growing up, but it wasn’t until after high school that they started talking. She remembers picking him up for the first time in Clayton, and he tripped over her boot lace as she drove up to him.
“His face was beet red when he got into my car,” Ms. Gushlaw said. “He was very shy, but he’s opened up so much over the past five years that we’re together. We laugh about it now. “
Towards the end of September, Ms. Gushlaw first tested positive for COVID-19. She quarantined herself at home with Mr. Whiting, who at the time had tested negative. When Ms. Gushlaw recovered and returned to work, Mr. Whiting began to fall ill. He tested positive on October 7.
He went to River Hospital in Alexandria Bay a few days later, but his vital signs were normal. His oxygen level was 98%, which is normal. It only took two more days for his oxygen level to drop to 47%. Anything below 60% is considered very low.
Ms. Gushlaw took him back to River Hospital and his body temperature was around 103 degrees. He was immediately put on oxygen, steroids and additional antibiotics. X-rays showed complete whitening on his lungs, that is, when the lung’s black is replaced by a white color, indicating that there is not enough air flowing and that a Advanced stage of COVID-19 is setting in.
Mr Whiting’s mother said they immediately started looking for intensive care units for her son. Wherever the premises were reserved, they were able to find a bed at the health center of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. Mr. Whiting was in a one-story room designated COVID. His family visited him, but it was through glass on the phone.
“It was better than not seeing him,” his mother said. “I was very grateful that we were able to do this. He was having a hard time being alone.
The isolation affected Mr. Whiting. His mother said he would call him in the middle of the night after nurses did not answer his calls. She doesn’t blame the inundated staff, but it was almost helpless for her as she thought about her son alone in a sick wing.
“He was having a hard time being on his own,” Ms. Whiting said. “When you can’t breathe and no one comes to help you when you’re alone in a room, it’s scary. “
Mr. Whiting’s oxygen levels continued to drop to the point that doctors wanted to intubate him before he began to crash. Ms Whiting, who was only able to visit him at certain times, recalls that a medical assistant called her and told her they were anxious to intubate. She asked them to wait so that she could go there and talk to her. They told her they couldn’t wait, so they let her talk to him with her fiancée.
“I wanted to be there because he was scared,” Ms. Whiting said. “He was so good about it, though. Her last words were “Mom, they’re going to put me to sleep now so I can rest”. He looked so calm and collected. I was holding it back. I didn’t want to cry.
She told him to get the rest he needed to heal and come back, and this has been their last exchange since then.
On Monday morning, the hospital called asking to place him on the ECMO machine, which may be more helpful than intubation.
“They are far away and few in number,” she said. “Kyle was lucky to have this one available at the hospital he was in because people had to travel across the country to get an ECMO.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Whiting had been at ECMO for more than a day and was likely to be there for at least 10 days. His mother, fiancee, and siblings can now walk into his room and hold his hand.
“He doesn’t feel it but they tell us he can hear us,” said his fiancee, “and that makes him better to handle.”
Ms Whiting said her son had no underlying illness and doctors told him he was the youngest patient on the ECMO machine they had had.
“He’s got a 1 in 5 chance of getting out of this machine,” she said, “but he’s also the youngest and healthiest they’ve ever had. There is still hope.
All things considered, Mr. Whiting’s time at ECMO has been going well so far, his mother said. Her kidneys are better and they’ve turned the fan down a bit, she said.
As medical bills and daily travel costs to the hospital escalate, a GoFundMe has been launched and can be found here.
“I go there every day and talk to her and tell her that we are all waiting and you have to do this,” Ms. Whiting said. ” It’s my baby. I do not give up.”
And in the meantime, Mr. Whiting has a wedding to go.
“Everyone tells him that they are praying for him and that he has to get married and that he is not going to be okay,” his fiancee said. “We’re going to get out of this and continue. “