Surviving the virus
After a 20-day stay battling COVID-19 at IU Health West Hospital, Brownsburg’s Nick Xinopoulos was discharged
By Stephanie Dolan
Riding in his chariot of a wheelchair and flanked by the cheering hospital staff, 76-year-old Nicholas Xinopoulos busted out of IU Health West Hospital April 15 after a 20-day stay battling COVID-19, including 12 on a ventilator.
“I can’t say enough nice things about the hospital,” he said. “The nurses were amazing. The love, kindness and support they give you is nonstop. They’re very caring individuals. I wouldn’t be around now if they didn’t care.”
The image of the Brownsburg resident, already well known for his role as the International Director of the Lion’s Club, was quickly shared from the Avon hospital’s Facebook page.
“I had the privilege of taking care of Mr. Xinopoulos his last two days at IU West,” Erin Leonard wrote among the Facebook comments. “God is not done using him as a true instrument — amazing human!”
Dr. Jeffrey Farmer, internal medicine and hospitalist, acted as the primary doctor as part of Xinopoulos’ care team.
“Nick was pretty sick when he came in,” Farmer said, recalling shortness of breath, coughing, low oxygen and weakness. That night that hospital staff turned the oxygen up as high as it would go before putting him on a ventilator.
Meanwhile Xinopoulos’ wife Gretchen went with him to the hospital and was also hospitalized with the novel virus diagnosis.
“I also had symptoms, and I felt like I had pneumonia,” said Gretchen who was in the hospital six days and didn’t need a vent. “I finally decided one day that this morning is the morning, and I called the ambulance.”
Nick felt so bad he didn’t fight his wife’s decision.
“I was just too stubborn to admit I was in bad shape. I was also worried,” he said. “We’d heard so much about this disease and people dying. I was a little scared of what was going to happen. The uncertainty just makes you wonder.”
Since they both were in isolation, Farmer brought her regular updates on her husband, and he remembers a point when he wasn’t sure Nick would make it.
“After about four to five days of being on the ventilator, he got worse,” Farmer said. “He was receiving all the support we could give him for about two or three days.”
Given their side effects, Xinopoulos was not a candidate for experimental drugs, so the hospital staff was only able to support him as his body battled the virus.
Some factors put patients at greater risk of more severe COVID-19 symptoms, Farmer said.
“Age is affecting folks,” he said. “We’re also seeing it in people with chronic medical issues like diabetes or heart issues…But we’ve also seen a lot of younger, healthier folks come into the hospital with this disease much more so than a lot of other viral illnesses. I think there’s a lot about this disease that we just don’t know…The learning curve is steep.”
From the first moment in the ambulance until his triumphant exit, Xinopoulos can’t thank everyone who works at the hospital enough.
“We’re so blessed and so thankful to live in a country like ours,” Xinopoulos said. “From the time that Gretchen called the dispatch and they showed up, they were professional and kind. We take them for granted when we see them. But we need to thank them.”
Xinopoulos believes in the power of prayer, and knows that drove his recovery as well.
“I believe prayer helped out tremendously,” he said. “I received prayers from India, from Africa, from Indonesia and from Europe. I also received so many through email and Facebook, and I’m very glad and thankful for all these people and their support.”
Now that he’s on the mend, Xinopoulos hopes he can soon get back to helping others through Lions Club, the world’s largest service organization with more than 1.4 million members.
“I’ve been a Lion going on 31 years, and I thoroughly have enjoyed trying to make a difference in our world,” he said.
For now, he’s doing physical therapy at home a couple of days a week and enjoying some fresh air when the weather is nice.
“We just hope and pray they’ll find a cure for this horrible disease so people can stop losing their lives,” he said. “Thank you first responders. I’m thankful for the entire group of people at the hospital. They were so courteous and professional. They’re great. The nurses work so hard, just nonstop. They’re so kind with their words and their encouragement.”
Brownsburg’s Nick Xinopoulos survived COVID-19 and endured a 20-day stay at IU Health West Hospital. He’s now recovering at home. (Photo by Eric Pritchett)
Getting to know Nick Xinopoulos
Who or what inspires you? The kindness of people. If we take our time to learn about each other, to care about one another, it inspires me when I see someone doing good for someone else. That gets me motivated, good people and good attitudes.
What is your favorite Hendricks County charity? The food pantries that people try to help out with the hunger, people caring for one another and trying to support that is wonderful.
What TV show will you be watching while you continue to recover? “American Pickers,” some comedy shows, and I really enjoy the History Channel.
Do you have a vacation planned? We’d like to go back and enjoy some of the beauty of Hawaii. We also have friends in Florida, and we’d like to go back there, too.
What else will you be doing in recovery? I’ll spend a little time outside, fiddle around, do some gardening, just a little bit of everything.