INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a day 16-year-old Wesley Fox and his family waited months for. For 175 days, Wesley has been hospitalized with COVID-19 and on Wednesday, he was finally discharged to go to rehab after being treated at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital.
“It’s surreal that I am actually leaving now after six months of being here,” Wesley said.
Wesley and his mom, Molly, caught COVID-19 back in July. At the time, both were unvaccinated.
“I remember not being able to eat anything because everything had a very stale taste to it. Our food was not stale at home, but everything tasted like it had gone bad a week prior. It was just awful,” Wesley said.
Not long after, Wesley was in the emergency room in his hometown of Bedford after struggling to breathe and having severe headaches.
“We weren’t at the hospital for an hour when they had him intubated at our local hospital in Bedford. Then we came with a helicopter from there to here,” said Molly. “We had several calls with different doctors saying, 'Your son is probably not going to make it. These are our options, and we don’t know if they will work.'”
Fox was on ECMO for eight days and spent 160 days on a ventilator. He had 12 medical caregivers in and out of his room almost daily, which represented about seven specialties. He also had around 233 physical and occupational therapy hours.
“The severity of his lung injury has necessitated him being here, but also being so sick when he first came in, he had to be extremely sedated for a long time in the first month or so that he was here and that debilitated him,” said Dr. Kay Sichting, the PICU medical director at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.
For months, Molly and Wesley’s dad Russell stayed at St. Vincent House once a week to stay close to him and often drove up whenever they could.
“We sat there at the edge of his bed and said, ‘What are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to figure this out? What are we going to do?’ It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” Molly said. “We held onto each other pretty tight, but we also had a huge support system at home that has not only physically helped us but also through love and prayers. There are literally people all over the United States that have sent up prayers for this kid.”
In October, Wesley started showing signs of recovery and gave his mom a birthday surprise by singing her happy birthday. It was the first time he could talk through his speaking valve on his tracheostomy.
“My parents walked in and I was like 'Happy Birthday to you!' My mom cried a little,” Fox said.
Even though the severity of Fox’s case is rare, Sichting said it’s not uncommon for children to be hospitalized with COVID. Recently doctors have been seeing an uptick.
“We are seeing an increased number of children being admitted with COVID. We are seeing in the community the highest rates we have seen for pediatric patients with COVID,” she said. “Generally the vast number of children will do very well with this, but there are kids who are getting really sick. Previously healthy children getting really sick and that’s what is really concerning to us.”
Like so many, Fox didn’t think his case would be severe until things took a turn for the worse.
“I thought I was healthy enough that even if I did catch COVID, it would just be a cold and then I would bounce back from it but here we are six months later,” he said.
Fox said he is looking forward to getting stronger in rehab. He hopes one day to get an associate degree to become a respiratory therapist and then get his bachelor’s degree and become a registered nurse like those who cared for him.
He also worked with Peyton Manning Children's Hospital School to complete his schoolwork with a goal to begin his junior year on track in the fall.