Breaking News
More () »

'It's real, we've lived it' | Catawba County EMT/paramedic shares COVID-19 battle after spending 87 days in the hospital

Steve Rowe spent the part of the pandemic transporting some of the more serious COVID-19 patients, only to contract the virus himself and need to be hospitalized.

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — A Catawba County EMT/paramedic is sharing his experience with COVID-19 after spending nearly three months in the hospital.  

Steve Rowe has worked for Catawba County EMS for nearly 30 years. He was used to being someone who saved lives in the pandemic through his work with Catawba County EMS.

"I was mostly seeing the bad part of it [the pandemic] because I was doing transfers of patients that had it…that were really bad,” Steve Rowe said.

But when Steve Rowe  contracted COVID-19 in September, he was the one who needed saving.

"It seemed like every time I would start to get better, it would come back and get even worse,” Steve Rowe said.

RELATED: Hickory High School employee dies from COVID-19

He started getting sick and running a fever in September. His wife, Donna Rowe, also had COVID-19, and they both went to the hospital on Sept. 21.

Donna Rowe recovered after about a week, but Steve spent the next 87 days in the hospital, 56 of them in the intensive care unit (ICU). Donna Rowe  said he was moved six different times among five facilities, and she was unable to visit him during some of the most turbulent times when he was in the ICU.

"I was scared to death. I was scared to death,” Donna Rowe said. “We were all scared to death."

Steve Rowe had to be transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center at one point, and Donna was not allowed inside to see him.

"The doctor from Baptist called me and told me and told me 'He's very critical.' He said, 'I'll either call you back and tell you that he's going to make it, or I'm going to call you back and tell you he's going to die,’” Donna Rowe recounted.

Steve Rowe said he was given Remdesivir and plasma treatments, but ultimately, he had to be intubated.

“From my experience transporting people that had been intubated, they didn’t do well,” Steve Rowe said. “And I fought being intubated.”

During that time, Steve said all he could do was pray.

RELATED: 9-year-old boy dies of complications from COVID-19 at Cook Children's

"For some reason, I couldn't get out of my head, 'Be still,’” Steve Rowe said. “From then on, I didn't feel worried about it, I think that's what saved my life really."

His friends and family at home in Catawba County were praying for him as well.

“All we could do was pray,” Donna Rowe said. “Pray and ask God to heal him because we couldn’t see him. We couldn’t touch him. We couldn’t talk to him.”

On the last leg of his battle with COVID-19, Steve was transported back to Catawba County and welcomed by his EMS family.

“We see him come out of that ambulance, and we were in a car,” Donna Rowe said. “We were just hooping and hollering, and just, ‘Oh, there he is.’”

The road to recovery has not been easy.

“He had to learn how to sit up on the bed,” Donna Rowe said. “He had to learn how to stand and had to relearn how to eat.”

RELATED: Georgia woman dies from COVID-19 as husband battles cancer

Steve Rowe said he still needs supplemental oxygen, especially to get up and walk. He said his progress is slowly improving and is optimistic he won’t need the oxygen one day.

The Rowe family is thankful for the support they received from the army of people who surrounded them the last few months.

Even though COVID-19 data is starting to trend downward, Steve Rowe said he wants people to know it is still a dangerous, deadly disease.

Donna Rowe added, “It is real. We have lived it.”  

Before You Leave, Check This Out