'To hell and back': Ohio State professor's month-long fight to survive COVID-19

Dr. Karl Danneberger
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After a frightening month of fighting COVID-19, an Ohio State professor is sharing his story of sickness and survival.

As Dr. Karl Danneberger was fighting for his life, his wife was quarantined at home- praying for his recovery.

Dr. Karl Danneberger has taught at Ohio State for more than 30 years. But when it comes to telling his own story, he needs a little help.

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"My wife is going to have to do that because I don't remember any of it," he said. "I remember basically feeling healthy, and then the next thing I remember is two or three weeks later, waking up in the hospital."

Sallie Danneberger says her husband started feeling sick around March 11.

"Initially he was just like really achy, kind of a low-grade fever for a couple days, and then it went into a higher fever. I think we just kept thinking, gosh, could this really be the coronavirus? And you're just praying that it's not."

By March 16, he was struggling to breathe- and his doctor advised him to go to the ER.

Within 48 hours, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and admitted to Intensive Care.

"You can't visit him, you couldn't go to the hospital," said Sallie. "You couldn't do anything so you just had to stay here. And no one was allowed in my house. The infectious disease physician asked me to not have anyone in the house for a month."

With Karl unconscious and on a ventilator, Sallie sat at home alone, waiting for daily phone updates from his medical team at Ohio State.

"I remember that Sunday them saying, 'Don't be shocked if something happens and he may not make it. But we're doing everything we can do to keep him going and make him better.' They tried very, very hard to stay optimistic. I called my kids, I called my minister, called some close friends, and we just all prayed and prayed."

After that terrible weekend, Karl turned a corner.

"I remember saying, what am I doing here? where have I been? and he said, 'You've been to hell and back. And it's good to have you back home.'"

He credits the doctors and nurses at the Wexner Medical Center with saving his life and being there for his family when he couldn't.

"I remember looking out the window and the whole staff cheering and clapping as they walked by- and I just gave the thumbs up," he said.

"It was just a huge relief," said Sallie. "So many prayers had been answered. So many good thoughts. So we just felt very very blessed."

On April 16, one month after entering the hospital, he was released.

Twenty pounds lighter, but full of gratitude and perspective.

"I'm very fortunate. Because there's quite a few people like me who didn't make it. And so I think the word hope means a lot. Hope. I cling to that word- hope. You gotta have hope."

Karl says he is still slowly regaining strength.

He says he hopes to be well enough to get back to teaching when Ohio State's summer session starts in two weeks.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

There are now 33,892 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio; 2,041 people have died from the virus and 6,130 were hospitalized, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Breakdown of Ohio cases by county >>

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

10TV is committed to bringing you a FACTS NOT FEAR approach to our coronavirus reporting. You can count on 10TV to give you the latest developments and the impacts on you and your family. For complete coverage, visit: 10TV.com/coronavirus.

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