Richard Frady rested comfortably in his wheelchair as nurses pushed him down the long hall from his room at AnMed Rehabilitation Hospital in Anderson, S.C., on Saturday, May 30.
His hair was shaggier than normal, he breathed through an oxygen tube in his nose and his legs were not strong enough yet for him to walk his way to his wife, who waited eagerly for his arrival. Despite what may have seemed to an unknowing observer to be a sad situation, this was the happiest either had been in the past two months.
“There he is. Ohhh, there he is,” Sally Frady said as she hugged and kissed her husband for the first time in weeks. “Now this is a good hug.”
Richard Frady for the past two months has been more intimately connected than most to the COVID-19 pandemic and almost completely separated from the news of the international response to the disease at the same time. He went to the hospital March 28 when he became short of breath and was running a fever. He was diagnosed with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus after an emergency room trip to AnMed Hospital in Anderson, where he subsequently spent 42 days in an intensive care unit. His body was so weak from fighting the disease, he then spent two weeks undergoing inpatient rehab to make him healthy and strong enough to come home to Sally in Hartwell.
“I hear the world has changed a little bit in the last couple of months,” Frady said, chuckling about the fact that he missed the stay-at-home orders, the social distancing guidelines and the measures that have altered how people now go about their daily routines.
Richard’s family deliberately tried to keep him from paying too close attention to the grim news of the rising death toll nationally and statewide while he was in the hospital. They wanted to keep his spirits up and to ensure that he was encouraged. Richard said he watched little TV while battling the disease and was mostly unaware of the constant coverage.
“We didn’t want you to watch the news because it was all about COVID-19,” Sally Frady said on Tuesday, after spending a few days at home with her husband.
The disease took its toll on his body to the point that in-patient rehabilitation was requried to regain his strength. Richard’s fight kept he and Sally separated. Saturday was the first time the couple had seen each other in person in weeks and only the third time in the past two months. Sally was ready for Richard’s return home to Hartwell.
“We’re gonna get you home, and fatten you up. I’ve already got roast in the crock pot with carrots and potatoes, a big cake, your favorite ice cream, a refrigerator full,” Sally Frady told her husband when she first saw him Saturday.
Nurses went over the discharge information with Sally as Richard asked a pressing question to which the University of Georgia football fan needed an answer.
“Are they going to play college football?” Richard wondered.
His saturdays are built around college football, he said.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do without that,” Richard added.
But there is still time to figure that out, time he will use to continue physical therapy and getting his body back into shape. Richard has his eyes on finding the strength again to play the guitar with the Lake Hartwell Bluegrass band, to go out to eat with his wife and adult daughter, Allison Nissen, and to simply live life the way he did before COVID-19 nearly took it all away from him.
On Saturday, though, Richard’s first order of business was to go back to his home, a place he hadn’t seen since March 28 when he was admitted with a 104-degree fever, a bad cough and body aches.
“I just want to wheel around the house and just be thankful,” Richard said sitting in his wheelchair.
Sally noted he will be using a walker at home.
“So I’ll be walking, and I’ll be talking,” Richard said. “I don’t know if I’ll be doing any dancing.”
He also planned to spend plenty of time outside, a place he has only been twice since hospitlization.
“My goodness, to be outside,” he said Saturday as the warm, midmorning sun blanketed him as the family exited the hospital.
“But by the grace of God, I’m leaving. I’ve had a tremendous amount of prayers from church, my family and my friends,” Richard said. “I just had expert care at the ICU department. They were very encouraging.”