Teacher survives near death COVID-19 experience

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OREGON, Wis. — Doctors told Michael Derrick he might not survive COVID, now he’s back in the classroom doing what he loves.

Derrick was on summer break from teaching art at Oregon High School when he was diagnosed.  He’s considered immunocompromised since he’d had a liver transplant a few years ago.  He was admitted to the hospital when his blood oxygen levels dropped.  Weeks passed.  His family was shut out.

“I was sitting in my room, bored out of my mind.  (I) can’t go anywhere.  (I’m) watching the clock tick backwards.  All of a sudden, a team of nurses and doctors come rushing in saying ‘your numbers are way off’.  We think you should be on a ventilator’,” Derrick says.

Derrick was reluctant.

“You hear about the things that can go bad, (with) the side effects of being on a ventilator,” he says.  “The doctor goes, ‘I’m just going to be frank with you, if you don’t do this we don’t think you’re going to make it through the night’,” he adds.  “All the sudden I became that guy on the news, or person on the news, where the nurse if volunteering to hold my hand,” says Derrick.

From there, he recovered quickly.  He was one of the lucky ones.

“At that time I was the only transplant patient to make it out of the ICU, so I was counting my blessings,” Derrick says.

While in the hospital, he missed family birthdays, but he made it out in time to see his daughter crowned homecoming queen.

“We were up in the stands. I still even have it on my phone. It was awesome,” he says.

On his classroom wall, there’s a painting that reads “Be Observant”.  It’s a motto he teacher to his students.  Now it’s Derrick who has the fresh perspective and a new appreciation.

“I definitely have a different appreciation for what the people here meant,” he adds.