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Florida man on coronavirus hospitalization: ‘I don’t think anybody expected me to pull through’

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

JUPITER — Like many cases of COVID-19, Shelby Raider’s more or less began with a question.

“Do I have coronavirus?”

Wife Judy Roy was vomiting and Raider said he was showing symptoms, too. But this was in March, and the Jupiter man said he couldn’t easily get a coronavirus test. He waited out the symptoms — aches, chills, a mild fever — for two weeks, but his condition only worsened.

Things became even more serious from there. A trip to Jupiter Medical Center’s intensive care unit in late March. More than three weeks on the dreaded ventilator. A dialysis hookup. A feeding tube.

But the 71-year-old Raider emerged from it intact. Discharged since May 11, Raider is recovering at his home in central Jupiter with cautionary words about the virus that, as he says, brought him to the brink of death.

“It’s not like the flu. It comes on like the flu but it attacks the weakest part of your body,” Raider said. “I wish the politics would stay out of it and we’d say, ’Everybody wear a mask when you go out,’ and just be done with it.”

While he was hospitalized, Roy said she was told twice that her husband was close to dying. They were worried his heart would give out, she said, but each time he bounced back.

Recovering from the virus herself, Roy followed from afar. She would call Jupiter Medical staff members who held the phone to Raider’s ear so she could talk to him while he was in an induced coma.

“That’s what kept me going,” said Roy, retired after a career that included a stint from 2003 to 2012 working in The Palm Beach Post’s advertising department.

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She credited Shawn Smith, a critical care nurse in Jupiter Medical’s ICU, with helping her through it. Smith, who, in an incredible coincidence, previously worked with Raider at Home Depot in Jupiter, was part of the team on Raider’s case.

“He’s definitely a success story. ... It would have been really hard on me had he not made it,“ Smith said.

Raider, who doesn’t recollect anything from the time he was on the ventilator, is more blunt.

“I don’t think anybody really expected me to pull through.”

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One significant complication was that Raider’s one and only kidney produced no urine for more than a month, brother Dan Raider said.

“Quite frankly during that time, we thought he was going to die,” Dan Raider said. “We were trying to think about what a funeral would look like in the middle of a pandemic. Would there be one?“

Even after healthcare workers took Raider off the ventilator in mid-April, his brother said it was another week or so before he could verbalize words. The family worried that there could be brain damage.

“It was just a very traumatic time,” he said. “And during that time I would find myself sobbing for no particular reason other than thinking about my brother."

Raider’s first post-coma memories were at Kindred Hospital, where he was transferred from Jupiter Medical Center. Roy described his mental state as a drug-induced haze.

Bizarre stuff came to mind, Raider said. He dreamed that he was with his dentist venturing through New Zealand.

“It was really kind of strange because I didn’t know where I was at,” he said, laughing. “I was at Kindred Hospital (in Riviera Beach) and for some reason I thought Carmine’s was right outside the door and I kept insisting on having food brought in.”

From there, Raider was transferred again to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center before heading home in mid-May.

He’s taking it easy these days. A nurse comes weekly and a physical therapist drops by twice a week.

His muscles “were like Jello” after being bed-ridden for so long, Raider said, and there are some lingering questions about his lungs and kidney.

Raider wants to get those squared away so he can return to work in Home Depot’s appliance department. He calls his health a “work in progress.”

“If I go from the dining room to the front door, I’m out of breath,” he said.

Dan Raider said he has pretty good intuition and sensed that his brother would live. But still, his brother’s recovery seems to lack an intellectual explanation, he said.

“I call it a miracle,” he said.

Roy, too, calls Raider her “miracle man.”

showard@pbpost.com

@SamuelHHoward