Over the last few days, Sue and Katy Szendrey have spent their time counting down the minutes until they can FaceTime with their husband and dad from his hospital bed.
It’s a ritual that began when doctors moved the ventilator Billy Szendrey has relied on for five weeks from intubation to a trach tube, allowing them to ease him from a medically induced coma.
It’s a huge step forward after a month-long, roller-coaster recovery.
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“You can tell it every day. He seems to get a little stronger. He smiles a little bit more. He had mouthed today, ‘I love you’ to all of us, which was huge,” Sue Szendrey said.
It’s progress that’s come slowly since Billy received a plasma transfusion last month.
As Billy was one of the earliest acute cases in North Texas, his family fought hard to seek donors. They aimed to raise awareness about research showing antibodies from those who’d already recovered from the virus could help heal those still suffering.
“I think the plasma donation for Billy gave us hope when we really needed the hope,” Sue said.
But by the time Billy received it, doctors said his lungs had been severely damaged. Three weeks later, they’re still not sure whether it made a difference in his case.
Still, the mother and daughter said they’re grateful doctors were able to try the treatment.
They’ve been told the one donation benefited two other patients, and their hopeful their plea encouraged more recovered patients to give.
“It’s not for nothing,” Katy Szendrey said.
As of this week, Billy is recovering at a critical care hospital in Dallas, where they believe he’ll remain for at least three weeks.
From there, he’ll move on to rehab.
Sue and Katy said they believe it will be at least two more months before they have him back home.
“We just don’t wish this on anyone,” Sue said.
That’s why as they prepare to watch businesses begin to reopen Friday, they’re warning others to remain cautious.
“I think that the state is opening way too soon. And that because of this that more people are going to end up in the hospitals on ventilators, and more families are going to end up going through what our family has gone through. It’s just not worth it,” Katy said.
The Szendreys also said they’re eternally grateful for all of the doctors and nurses who’ve cared for Billy.
They, along with their friends, have made it a habit of sending treats to their local hospital as a "thank you."
They encouraged others looking for a way to help to do the same.