Nurse of the Week: Pediatric NP Joseph Vine Returns to Work After 56 Days on a Ventilator

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San Antonio, Texas NP Joseph Vine must be a descendant of the unsinkable Molly Brown. After a brutal attack with Covid-19 left him in a medically induced coma for two months last year, our Nurse of the Week went through a lengthy recovery period. Now, happy to be able to treat young people again at his pediatric emergency care clinic, he says, “I’m almost back to where I was before.”

But Vine endured a terrifying ordeal in the interim between “before” and now. In June 2020, Covid entered the life of the 41-year-old father of three. Coughing and gasping for breath, he reached the emergency room at Northeast Baptist Hospital—just barely. “I felt so awful,” he told News 4 San Antonio. “I was sure I had Covid, and basically as soon as I got to the emergency room they told me to intubate me.” His chances of survival were questionable. Vine’s wife Anayuri even said, “They thought he wouldn’t make it.” The couple had been married for less than two years and Anayuri had recently given birth to a girl when Vine was admitted. Suddenly her husband was unreachable, was in a coma in the ICU and breathing with the help of machines. For Anayuri and the baby, he was basically gone. “I couldn’t see him for two months,” she recalls.

Vine survived after spending 56 days on a ventilator. His return to consciousness in August 2020 was met with relief – and relieved surprise – by his wife, friends and doctors. He recalls, “I actually came out, which they never thought I would… They said, ‘Wow, he’s really awake!’ A lot of people didn’t expect this to happen.”

When Northeast Baptist finally fired him last October, Vine, like many post-ICU patients, was almost as helpless as a newborn. (The NP, which has no insurance, also faced financial helplessness. He emerged with nearly $2 million in medical expenses, and friends helped raise money for his rehabilitation treatment).

When he got home, Vine suffered nerve damage and his right foot was completely out of action. Doctors warned that the foot may never regain its function. “They said,” he recalled, “if it’s not here in 48 hours from when we first sighted it, it probably won’t come back at all.” However, using the special reserves of discipline, determination and “Yes I can” attitude that enable nurses to do what they do, the nurse learned to walk again before his daughter Charlotte had mastered crawling. Charlotte — who was born just five months before Vine entered the hospital and is now 21 months old — had to get to know her father again when he finally got home. She’ll be able to keep up with Dad better than most toddlers, as he still wears a foot brace, but Vine happily commented, “…I’m much more mobile now. I am very encouraged. I think it will come back even more.”

As his recovery progressed, Vine began treating patients via telehealth while still on a walker. In January 2021, he returned to the clinic on a part-time basis and two months later switched to full-time. “Being here and making a difference and helping people was a motivating goal to return to. I missed the connection with my patients.” Since his recovery from Covid, Vine is also well positioned to comfort families when one of his young patients contracts the disease. “When I talk to families, they are often nervous, scared. It may be the first time this has affected their family. I can give them advice or help alleviate some of the symptoms and talk about the course and then get in touch with them too… kind of part of their process to make sure nothing gets worse for them. That seems to really help them.”

For more on Joseph Vine’s story, see News 4 San Antonio and this excellent long read on the San Antonio Express News.

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Koren Thomas (pictured with Editorial Assistant, Elsa, Empress of New York City) is the associate editor of DailyNurse. Send your article ideas, submissions, Nurse of the Week suggestions, comments and photos of cats/dogs/babies to me at [email protected] Latest posts from Koren Thomas (view all)

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