(Above) Craig and Sue LaKose pose with their daughter, Lizzie, and members of the critical care team at MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center, on the day Craig was released from the hospital. He spent 28 days in the hospital battlling COVID-19. -Photo courtesy of MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center.
by Michelle Watson
Craig and Sue LaKose have been on a journey that most of us have been dreading since the pandemic began last spring. They both contracted the virus earlier this fall and have been battling it ever since.
“This has been a crazy ride I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” said Craig, who was released from the hospital on Monday, Oct. 12, after 28 days, 17 of those days on a ventilator.
Both Sue and Craig have jobs that have put them on the front lines since the pandemic began. Sue is a registered nurse at the Mason City Surgery Center and Craig is a deputy sheriff with the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department.
“Being a nurse I knew it was important to be careful, so we washed our hands and wore masks and kept our social circle small,” said Sue. “But, earlier this fall we started going out a little more and we let our guard down a bit.”
Although they have no idea where they contracted the virus, the virus found them. Sue, who has seasonal allergies every year at this time, noticed that her lungs were bothering her on Labor Day weekend.
“It’s not uncommon for me to need a little extra help this time of year with inhalers and medication,” said Sue. “I sought medical care and they told me it was bronchitis. I had no fever and no other COVID symptoms.”
That same weekend, Craig came home from work one day and said he didn’t feel well. He got tested for COVID and on Sept. 11 found out he was positive. Sue tested after that and it was confirmed she also had COVID. They both tried to fight the battle from home and push through, but they were losing the battle.
Sue was experiencing shortness of breath, while Craig lost his appetite, was tired and had sore muscles.
“God said you two need to wake up and get some help,” said Sue.
On Sept. 15, Craig went to the hospital first and when he told them how bad his wife was, they told him she better get there too. Within an hour they were both admitted to the hospital. Craig, who was too weak to even stand, went right to the critical care unit.
“A nurse at the hospital told me that it is not uncommon for couples to come into the hospital, because they are both so sick and they have no one to take care of them,” said Sue.
Sue spent six days in the hospital. She was on oxygen and a regiment of medicine. She was also given the drug, Remdesivir. She and Craig both received plasma from previous COVID patients.
They tried to keep Craig off a ventilator as long as they could, but they finally put him on one so that it could breathe for him, allowing his body time to heal. He was on the ventilator for 17 days. Once he was off the ventilator, his healing progressed quickly.
“I went from 270 pounds, down to 208 pounds,” said Craig. “It was a long battle.”
“I had a 93-year-old uncle who went through COVID easier and faster than we did,” said Sue. “The virus is so different for everyone, that is why it is so hard for doctors to figure out.”
Although battling for their health and their lives was tough, being separated for that long was also very hard.
“The last communication I had with Craig was on Sept. 16, one day before they put him on the ventilator. He sent me a text that said, ‘I’m not giving up.’”
While Sue was also in the hospital, a respiratory therapist named Karen, relayed messages between the two. Sue didn’t talk to Craig again until Oct. 3.
“Pulling away from the hospital after I’d been released was so hard,” said Sue. “I knew he was in very bad shape.”
Both Sue and Craig praised the critical care team for taking such good care of Craig.
“My nurse was so amazing. She was my guardian angel,” said Craig. “Amanda is the reason I am where I am today. I can’t say enough about how great she was.”
Craig still has a battle ahead of him as he tries to regain his strength with the help of physical therapy. He also needs to stay isolated for 30 days, as he is still vulnerable from the illness.
The LaKose’s also had a lot of support and prayers coming their way from family, friends and the community.
Craig and Sue have two children, Sam, who is 24 and Lizzie, who is 21. Sam lives at home and self-isolated while Sue and Craig were battling at home. Lizzie is a student at the University of Northern Iowa, but made the trip home to help out.
“The kids were awesome at keeping things going around here,” said Sue. “They really pulled together and made sure I was comfortable when I returned home. They really showed their maturity.”
The night Craig came home from the hospital the Clear Lake Fire Department and the evening deputies from the sheriff’s office greeted Craig with a parade.
“We are so humbled by the support that we have gotten. There is no way we can ever repay the community for what they have done for us,” said Craig.
As Craig and Sue spend their lives protecting and serving others through their careers, it is only right that some of that care and love was reciprocated back to them.