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Swine flu puts Seaside man in hospital for 65 days
By The Associated Press
January 03, 2010
John Chapman has much to look forward to this year.
He's alive. He's talking. And he's home.
That's a lot to say after being deemed by some doctors at Providence Seaside and St. Vincent hospitals the "No. 1 sickest person" they had ever seen.
Suffering from swine flu that rapidly turned into pneumonia, Chapman spent 65 days -- most of it unconscious -- in those hospitals. He was connected to at least 13 intravenous tubes at a time, his lung collapsed, his blood pressure nose-dived, his kidneys quit, his digestive system shut down and he developed blood clots. His weight dropped from 215 pounds to 175. He was on four life-support systems, including a respirator, and was in a medically induced coma for a month.
Now he is back home in Seaside, on the way to a full recovery. At least one doctor has called Chapman a "miracle."
"They never gave up," Chapman said about the medical team that supervised his care.
"Neither did anyone else, I guess," he added.
Chapman, 44, does the "morning drive" show on KCZB FM radio, and is co-owner of KSWB AM radio in Seaside. While he clung to life, he was the subject of a blog and some local fundraising events.
Every few days someone on "Chappy's Team" -- consisting of business partner Cal Brady, office manager Robin Knoll, family representative Neil Dundas and friend Deb Treusdell -- posted an update on the blog.
In October, they explained what happened: Chapman was admitted to Providence Seaside Hospital with pneumonia, put on a respirator and taken to St. Vincent, where he began suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome. While they tried to remain upbeat, the bloggers were truthful about his condition. Sometimes it wasn't easy.
"We were trying to cut down on potentially hurtful rumors," Brady said.
In November, the news focused on Chapman's oxygen levels. Readers were told that he was in "dire circumstances" and "by no means out of the woods yet."
"November came and went, and I don't remember it," Chapman said this week. "I had only 11 months this year. Maybe I'll get a tax deduction."
Despite the grim news, however, friends rallied to his help. A "Chapman Family Fund" was established at Sterling Savings Bank, the Rotary held a spaghetti dinner, and in December, there was a chicken barbecue and auction. Both events attracted more than 600 people, all willing to donate to the Chapman Family Fund to defray expenses.
Friends offered the family a place to stay near the hospital, plus cell phones and other services. The Les Schwab Co. donated snow tires. A neighbor mowed the lawn at the Seaside house and another neighbor took care of the family dog.
By Dec. 1, Chapman moved out of the intensive care unit and into a private room. On Dec. 4, his tracheotomy tube was removed, and he spoke for the first time in several weeks. Physical therapy began Dec. 8, and his kidneys began working Dec. 18.
On Dec. 22, the blog contained the news that everyone had hoped for: Chapman was coming back to Seaside.
For three hours on Christmas Day, Chapman left Seaside Providence Hospital and went home, a few miles away. There, he opened presents with his family and ate breakfast. On Dec. 28, he came home for good.
Sitting on his living room couch with his wife, Karen, and four of his five children (Erin, 17, is on a Rotary Club exchange in Thailand). He said he was surprised but pleased to be able to return home so soon.
"It's going to take a year or so for my lungs and vital organs to be what they were - assuming they will get back. It could take a lifetime."
His daily routine, for now, will be to work on his stamina and strength. Although he is much stronger than when he first woke up and couldn't walk and could barely pick up a paper cup of water, Chapman still has a long way to go. With his walker this week, he went up his driveway, and while he needed help with his front stairs, he walked on his own into the living room and around the long couch.
That feat was overwhelming, he said.
"This is a serious, ugly disease," Chapman said. "Being able to walk is a miracle in itself."
He probably won't be returning as junior varsity soccer coach at Seaside High School or refereeing any rugby games soon. But Brady hopes that, by the end of January, Chapman may be strong enough to broadcast his morning radio show from his home.
"The fact that he's in Seaside and not at death's door in Beaverton is a great step," Brady said.
Always at his side, Chapman's wife, Karen, drove from Seaside every day to St. Vincent in Beaverton until she was able to get into a guest house operated by Providence across the street from the hospital.
"My family was constantly with me," she said. "They brought me food, they took me out to eat, they visited John. Friends and family took care of the kids."
"Then came the community support," Chapman said. "Even being in the broadcasting industry, I don't have words to describe how it feels to have such an outpouring of care, support and prayers from the community."
Although he hasn't been able to spend a lot of time looking at the messages left on the blog, he realizes he has heard from numerous friends in several states and countries.
"I was global -- I was thought about globally," Chapman said.
The blog, he added, was a "huge motivation" to keep working at getting better -- "just to be glad you're still there."
Others around him in the intensive care unit who also suffered from the H1N1 virus didn't appear to have as much support, Karen said. "There were so many people around us. We said a lot of prayers."
The two dinners that each attracted more than 600 people who contributed money for the family's expenses amazed the couple. The community's help is huge.
"Six hundred of our closest friends," Karen said. "I didn't know we had so many close friends."
Providence also contributed a significant amount toward the hospital bill.
"If this was a Master Card commercial, I'd say the North Coast community is priceless," Chapman said.
His plans for the new year seem simple enough, but will require diligence: "I want to get back to the best fitness that I can," Chapman said. "I want to get back to providing for my family and get back to being involved with things going on in my community.
"I want to put this behind us, share the lessons I've learned, and live another 44 years.
"Also, no more hospital food."