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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

COVID-19 survivor thanks Kaiser Permanente medical staff for saving his life

Rich Pickett signed a DNR, then spent 10 days on a ventilator.

SAN DIEGO — A COVID-19 survivor is sharing his story after spending ten days on a ventilator at the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center.

In Tuesday's Zevely Zone, I went to Tierrasanta to see how a discharged patient is thanking the medical staff.  

"I was thinking I either had a severe case of pneumonia or the coronavirus," said Rich Pickett.  

The 66-year-old Tierrasanta resident suspects it was on a flight to Newark in March when he contracted the coronavirus. 

"My fever would oscillate between 97 and a 103 sometime in a matter of hours," said Pickett.

Credit: Rich Pickett

A fever and nasty cough, he could deal with, but when Rich struggled to breathe, his wife Jane drove him to the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center.

"All she could do at the ER was literally drive up. They said 'stay in the car, we'll take him out.' They took me out and I waved to her, and she had to take off," said Pickett with tears in his eyes. "So that was hard. The next time I saw her was when she picked me up 17 days later."

Credit: Rich Pickett

Rich signed a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR).  

He thought he'd be dead in 24 hours.  

"I had a wonderful life. I had a wonderful family. If it didn't work out, it didn't work out," said Rich. 

Before he was put on a ventilator for ten days, he texted his loved ones goodbye.

"[I] made sure they had all of the information on my family. [I] asked some friends to help, and said 'I'm scared' and turned off my phone," said Rich.  

I asked Rich why he turned his phone off. 

 "I don't think I want to see the replies," said Rich again choking back tears. "The folks at Kaiser were amazing."

Credit: Rich Pickett

Which is why Pickett wanted to share his story with the public. 

Rich spent nine hours crafting a "thank you" letter to the medical staff. 

"I mean everybody was so concerned and worked so hard," said Pickett who thanked the doctors, nurses, therapists, nutrition experts and more. 

"Oh everybody, the housekeepers would come in every day to clean my room," said Pickett.  

Credit: Rich Pickett

An excerpt of Rich's letter reads: "My wife Jane and I have been proud members of Kaiser Permanente since 2006, when I joined SDSU as their Chief Information Officer. We always tell others about the wonderful service and I recently benefited from the expertise of your colleagues when I contracted COVID-19. I could simply tell you how amazing they are all, however I wanted to weave it into a narrative to reflect just some of my reasons for the accolades. The service I was provided from everyone including: nutrition, security, housekeeping, nursing, physicians, OT/PT to case management was outstanding and passionate. Many of them put their lives at risk to save mine."

Rich has lived a colorful life. 

He's been a police detective, a television weatherman, the chief information officer at San Diego State University, and now a COVID-19 survivor.  

"This is a vicious virus," said Pickett.  

He is also a pilot who volunteers for Angel Flights to help soldiers orphans and cancer patients in need. After 35 philanthropic flights to Haiti, and finally, this was his turn to receive instead of give.

"I thought I wasn't going to make it," said Pickett. 

Remember when we told you Rich turned his cell phone off?  

Well, a couple of angels turned it back on when he was in a coma. 

"Two nurses Anna and Sarah would hold the phone to my ear so my family could talk to me," said Pickett.  

It's all written down, in a letter.

"Because I thought it was important to individually thank them and I wanted the board of directors to know that," said Pickett.

Rich's wife Jane also contracted the coronavirus. Her symptoms were mild. She did not have a fever but did suffer fatigue and lost her sense of smell for about five days. 

Rich was discharged with no medication and a walker. He said he ditched the walker after two days and is feeling great.

You can read Rich Pickett's full letter to Kaiser Permanente's medical staff below:

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