Steven Pancake's COVID-19 Recovery

Steven Pancake is not one to lay around and do nothing. At 71 years old, he spends his days volunteering with his church, cutting trees, hunting, building projects and loves to stay busy. Connecting with others is a skill of his and he is known to “strike up a conversation with a rock.” But in the fall of 2020, Steven started to become unwell and was not able to physically do the normal activities he enjoyed.

Steven began feeling sick, lost his taste and smell, and became extremely weak. “He couldn’t hardly talk to me and he wouldn’t eat,” said his wife Anita. “He would hardly move and I don’t even know how we got him in the car to take him to the hospital.” Being married 51 years, Anita knew something was really wrong with her husband and it was more than just the common flu or cold. Once assessed by the ER, Steven was admitted to Good Samaritan on August 25, 2020 for symptoms of the COVID-19.

Because of Good Samaritan’s visitor restrictions at the time to keep patients and families safe, Anita spent most of her time at home waiting for phone calls to hear about her husband’s progress that day. “I was so worried all the time,” she said. “I was isolated at home by myself waiting for the phone calls. When you go that many days without seeing your husband, it is terrible.”

While in the hospital, Steven was placed on a ventilator and was progressively getting worse each day. The odds were stacked against him as he had some preexisting conditions that made COVID affect him worse than others. “Everyone thought I was going to die,” said Steven. “I remember the staff letting Anita come see me one time and I knew it was her, but I couldn’t relate or interact with her.”

While in the hospital, Steven had friends, family and his church ministry supporting him with their prayers and gifts. He received multiple cards, blankets and prayer circles took place in his honor. His own church, Twin Oaks Church in Petersburg, Indiana, held a prayer circle in the hospital parking lot one afternoon for him. “It is touching to see that much compassion in people,” he said. “It reminded me that I need to be faithful and pray for those that are sick as well, considering what I went through.”

Although Steven’s medical team and family didn’t think his outcome would be good, the “Lord had other plans.” His health began to improve and the decision was made to try and take him off of the ventilator. “You can win the battle, but lose the war,” said Dr. Philip Watson, Interventional Cardiologist and Pulmonologist. “So the turning point in a person’s health isn’t just respiratory success when they are removed from the ventilator, but it is also their mind and them as a person. When Steven started recognizing me when he was off the ventilator, that was a positive. It was the beginning of his journey to recuperation.”

As he began to improve, Steven was moved to Inpatient Rehab for physical therapy as he was weak from laying in the hospital bed for so long. “What people can’t comprehend about having COVID is the incredible weakness,” said Steven. “I could not even lift my leg to cross my ankles, change positions or reach over to push the call light. When I began to get stronger, the staff would help me walk around on the unit and it meant so much to me. I began to feel normal again and that I could do things on my own.”

After 57 days in the hospital, Steven was discharged and able to go home on October 8, 2020. Although still weak and not able to do everything on his own, he is grateful to be alive and back with his family and his best friend Max, his pet Rottweiler. “I am thankful to be outside again and to be with my wife and family. They have all been so supportive through all of this,” said Steven. He is surrounded by love from his two children, Dalene Drake and Alan Pancake, his three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He also has a great-grandchild on the way.

Steven and his wife made a special visit to see and speak with the care team at Good Samaritan who saved his life. “I have been looking forward to this,” said Steven. “I wanted a chance to say thank you, from my heart, thank you. It is encouraging to see all the people who cared for me.” His wife, Anita, also shared her gratitude to the staff. “I don’t know what we would do without people who are willing to care for others,” she said.

Although he still has a while to go in his recovery, Steven is looking forward to getting back to his daily activities. He still has limited use of his hands, but is gaining physical strength every day. He is eager to be continuing his work as the secretary and treasurer at his church, working as a member of the Washington Conservation Board, offering church services and meals to the West End Chapel Kids Club, or providing support at the Stepping Stones Baby Prison Ministry at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. After all, the man likes to stay busy.

While some may still question the validity of the cornonavirus, Steven can attest that it is real. “I used to be one of the people who was skeptical of whether or not COVID was as bad as the media made it out to be,” he said. “But it is real and it hits a person hard and can be a disaster for families. I am extremely grateful to those that cared for me and it is encouraging to see them here still providing life-saving care to others.”