Almost counted out from battle with COVID-19, 'miracle' survivor urges others to get vaccinated

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Jason Becker, the food and nutrition supervisor at NMC Health, has been called a miracle survivor of COVID-19.

Just like so many, Jason Becker started hearing about a new virus, one that was becoming a pandemic, about a year ago. The Walmart manager and food and nutrition supervisor at Newton Med, like so many, questioned whether COVID-19 was real. 

But after watching the virus spread — and the panic buying at Walmart — he stopped questioning. His life was changing, just like so many others. There were face masks in the heat of summer, social distancing and precautions everywhere he looked at both of his jobs. 

The biggest change for his life was yet to come. At the beginning of October, Becker started having headaches, cold and hot chills, skin crawling (itching) and body aching. He thought it was from a medicine he was taking for an infection. 

Jason Becker, the food and nutrition supervisor at NMC Health, has been called a miracle survivor of COVID-19.

"I toughed it out. Then, in the morning, I decided to go to work and try to shake off the reaction," Becker said. "I got to work at 7 a.m. As I got out of the car to go into the store, the ground started to spin. I then decided it was best that I call in sick. I am one that never calls in sick, but I did anyway."

He went to the emergency room, where they swabbed him for COVID-19. He tested positive. 

"After having it, my life changed more than I expected," Becker said. " ...The virus itself is not what takes people clear to the cleaner, it is the post-COVID stuff that takes you there.

"So, I left the ER and headed home to Salina. While driving, I called my wife and told her what happened. She packed her stuff and headed to her parents' house to quarantine for 14 days. I also visited with Saline County Health Department.

"On the morning of Oct. 7 around 5 a.m., I got up to use the restroom. On the way out, I leaned against our towel cabinet and held my head," Becker said. "I felt horrible. I swore my head was going to explode. I took one step into our hallway to go back to bed and I passed out onto the floor. I was out approximately 15 minutes. I woke up to laying on the ground with one foot under me, one foot out and couldn’t move."

Three days later, he was so weak he couldn't open the cabinets in his home, and he was incoherent when talking with his wife and her parents. They called 911, and Becker was admitted to the hospital in Salina, where he currently lives. 

"My wife and her parents came to the hospital, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, they were turned away and told they would have to talk to ER staff by phone," Becker said. "She advocated to the triage nurse about what was going on. She then waited an hour and a half for a doctor to call her. ... She said that was the longest time ever, she had no idea whether I was alive or dead or what was going on. All she knew was that I was brought in by ambulance."

After a conversation between the ER doctor and Becker's wife, he was admitted. Oxygen levels were monitored and he was given shots. Multiple IVs were loaded with fluids and medications. 

"There I was, confused as to what was going on," Becker said. "About three hours later (10 p.m.), I started coming to my senses. The doctor came in and said they were taking me up to the COVID-19 floor."

Doctors told Becker his chest X-ray showed completely "glassed over" lungs, and his system was on the edge of shutting down. Labs showed he was septic. Becker ended up spending nine days in the hospital, undergoing  respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, insulin therapy and oxygen therapy.

He was released Oct. 19 — but six days later he was back with a ruptured blood vessel in his ankle. He was treated and released but not done yet. 

"While at home all afternoon I was light-headed and really dizzy," Becker said. "...  I went and woke up my wife and told her we need to go back to the hospital. She came and sat down on the couch and we talked about what was going on. I said my pulse is rapid running 140-150 with me sitting and every time I get up I am light-headed and feel like I am going to faint and pass out."

Doctors ordered an EKG and blood workup, then a CT scan. His life was about to change again.

"He look at both of us and said, 'I do not have one bit of good news for you,' " Becker said. "I looked at my wife and back to the doctor."

Doctors found a pin hole in his lung, and his lungs were leaking air. They also found large blood clots in each of his lungs — and Becker was told  "this is part of post COVID."

Becker was observed for a night and released a couple of days later after treatment with blood thinners. On Oct. 27, he went home again. Then, on Oct. 29, a coughing fit landed him back in the hospital — this time transferred to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita as a possible stroke victim. 

"When I got there, they ran tests and came to the conclusion I had suffered a 'mini TIA stroke,' " Becker said. "I spent about three and a half days there, and then was released to do rehab at home. My wife became a caretaker and had to still work full time. She spent many days up all day and very few hours of sleep before working all night. It took about two weeks to start being able to do things on my own."

Becker has now mostly recovered. He's back at work as headaches and fatigue continue. 

"They don't know what the future outcome is. They think, the stage at right now, yes. I am recouping pretty good," Becker said. "... Through all of this, my doctor says I am a miracle survivor. My PA at Axtell Clinic says to me after looking all the reports over, 'People with what you went through would have had a funeral already, but you are still here!' My reply is, 'My lord and savior is not done with me yet here on Earth.' I definitely have a different outlook on life."

He has been diagnosed with Post COVID Syndrome. That means daily fatigue with days of chest pains, body aches, head aches, jaw pain, brain fog and other symptoms. 

If he had not had insurance, his debt from treatment thus far would be more than $400,000.

He no longer takes anything for granted — and he is telling his story with a purpose. He hopes that hearing what happened to him will encourage others to take steps to stay healthy. 

"Vaccinate. Stay healthy. Wear your stupid face masks, face shield, whatever. I take a whole slew of vitamins anyway, but I have stepped that up," Becker said. "If you able to get vaccinated, go get vaccinated. Sign yourself up for it and get it done and over."