Mark Sanders

“I can’t breathe. I need help.”

Those words, uttered by Mark Sanders to his daughter, marked the beginning of his long battle with COVID-19.

Before contracting COVID-19, Mark, 61, worked at Naval Ordinance as a maintenance electrician for a Department of Defense contract. He lived with his beloved wife, Deborah. His two daughters are nurses, one at Suburban and one at St. Mary’s.

When that call came through, Mark’s daughters knew he needed to get to the hospital at once.

Mark admitted to Baptist East and tested positive for COVID-19. His O2 sats were under 40%. “I felt like I was smothering,” Mark recalled. He deteriorated quickly and was put on a ventilator.

Fighting for his life, Mark was in a coma and unaware of what was happening around him. Deborah, also an RN, had been caring for her father in Hart County, KY. She, too, had contracted COVID-19.

At 57 years old, Deborah passed away.

The Monday before Thanksgiving — nearly two months after he had been placed on a ventilator — Mark came out of his coma. Two days later, his daughters told him about the loss of his beloved Deborah.

Mark was emotionally devastated. On top of that, the illness and length of his incapacitation had taken a significant toll on his body. Due to an infection, Mark required reintubation. Before he could begin physical rehab, Mark needed to regain some strength. “I couldn’t even lift my arms or move my hands,” he remembered.

To continue his recovery, Mark transferred from Baptist to Kindred Hospital. By the time Mark could finally transfer to Southern Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital (SIRH), more than four months had passed since his initial hospitalization.

Mark still faced a long road to recovery once he arrived at SIRH. “My two therapists had to physically pick me up to put me in my wheelchair,” he shared.

But Mark was up for the challenge and made tremendous progress during his stay. He can now walk with a walker and has gained enough strength to go home with his brother, Rick. His sister, Rose, has also been a frequent visitor, supporting Mark during his recovery.

In addition to the support of his loved daughters and siblings, Mark has a SIRH family that will miss seeing him each day.

“They mean the world to me,” Mark said of his therapists at SIRH with tears in his eyes. “What they have done to help me will never be forgotten.”

We won’t forget you either, Mark! You are part of the SIRH family now!