By Adam Strunk
Jason Becker just couldn’t get the fridge to open or a soup can, for that matter..
“Nothing made sense,” he said. “I wasn’t in my right mind to call for help. I grabbed a POWERADE and sat on the recliner. That was the end of it.”
Becker fell asleep. Hours passed. His phone rang over and over as his friends and wife checked up on him. Nothing shook him from his stupor until the evening, when he finally responded to a call from his wife.
“She put me on speaker phone with her parents, and she was asking questions,” he said. “I didn’t make sense. I was just rambling on. They knew they needed to get me help.”
Paramedics arrived and rushed Becker to the ER.
“They were going to give me units [fluids] to send me on my way,” he said.
He said his wife argued there was no way for Becker to take care of himself. He’d already been to the emergency room once before after passing out, and she had to be in quarantine and couldn’t stay with him.
So he was admitted to the hospital and tests conducted.
“X-rays showed both my lungs were glassed over with COVID-19,” he said, adding that he was hours from death. “I was asphyxiated with my lungs, and everything was on the shutdown of side of things. When they got lab back, I was very septic.”
He was put onto six liters of oxygen per minute, and his blood oxygen levels still remained dangerously low.
“They worked fast,” he said. “They hit me with a bunch of steroids.”
The next six days Becker spent in the hospital are somewhat of a blur for him, outside of the isolation from family and the gowned medical professionals in face masks and constant testing he said made him feel like a pincushion.
But at the end of the period, he left. Alive. His ordeal was far from over, but he didn’t know that at the time.
“I was a miracle,” he said. “After the things we found out and some of the reports they were doing, they were saying people in the state I was, they’d already had a funeral. God had a different plan in my life to share testimony of a miracle that took place.”
Becker said he now wants to speak of his ordeal and educate people about the disease that he didn’t take quite so seriously before his ordeal of five ambulance rides, three hospital stays, two pulmonary embolisms, one case of stroke, one case of sepsis and more than two months of recovery.
“Education is the big thing. People need to get educated about this stuff,” he said. “If had more education about it, I would have taken it a lot more seriously than I did.”
Jason Becker grew up in Newton, works in Newton and lived here 32 year, before eventually moving to Salina.
He’s 39. He’s actively working three jobs and traveling oversees, undertaking mission work. He said, before COVID-19, he was in good health.
“I’m not a pill popper, other than taking vitamins,” he laughed.
As the outbreak began and continued through the summer and mask orders and other regulations came down, Becker said he wasn’t too worried.
“I had mixed opinions when it first started,” he said. “Frankly, I was kind of more of the scuttlebugger in a way. Most of the time, if I went to the gas station, I’d have one [a mask], but who’d think about packing it in your jacket? If I didn’t have it on me, I’d just walk in.”
He said with so much information swirling around social media and everyone’s different opinions about the disease, it was hard to know what to believe. Was it as bad as they said?
“You’re trying to figure out what is true and what isn’t,” he said.
He said there were people claiming it had to do with the presidential election.
“The media has blown all sides of it,” he said. “Some say you have a 99 percent recovery. The others say there’s a 75 percent recovery rate. When I do read the newspaper here and there, you don’t really know how bad it is.”
COVID-19 has changed his life in a lot of ways since he contracted it Oct. 6.
“Now that I’ve been through it, I have a different perspective,” he said. “It is real. People are dying from it. Yes. It is real.”
He’s still not 100 percent and has an inhaler to help with breathing issues.
He also has to be careful and avoid illnesses and coughing so as to not dislodge some of the remaining blood clots the disease has left him with, which could cause severe injury to him if they broke lose.
“You wont catch me without my mask or my face shield,” he said, adding that he doesn’t “give a rip” if he receives funny looks. “If I’m going to walk into the grocery store, I have a face shield.”
At the start of October, Becker said he developed cellulitis in his ankle, something he’s dealt with before, and was prescribed antibiotics
On Oct. 5, when he picked up and took his prescription, he began to feel sick.
“I was cold, clammy, chilling; then my skin felt like it was on fire,” he said. “I was like, ‘Great. I’m having a reaction.’”
The next day he got ready for work.
“I thought I’d go to work and shake it off and call the doctor,” he said.
When he arrived at work, however, the ground seemed to spin beneath him.
He went to nearby Newton Medical Center, where he found out following testing that he wasn’t having an antibiotic reaction but instead had contracted COVID-19.
“They said one of two things: you’re going to have a mild version, or with cellulitis, you might have it hard core.”
He called his wife to tell her to quarantine and she packed her bags and left for her parents’.
He said he then developed a fever, and symptoms worsened.
On Oct. 10, he woke up to use the bathroom and had trouble understanding what was going on.
“My head felt the size of China; it was pounding and pounding,” he said. “I took one step into the hallway and passed out.”
Eventually, he came to, called 911 and was taken to the hospital in Salina, where he said he received fluids and was sent home, where he spent the next week feeling “really crummy” and extremely fatigued.
“It’s a weird feeling,” he said. “You know you’re not normal. You feel like you’re carrying around a whole bunch of bricks with you. It was weird stuff. It’s wicked.”
On Oct. 17, he grew so weak he passed out in his chair, resulting in the previously mentioned six-day hospital stay.
He was released home and two days later, on Oct. 25, found himself unable to breathe.
He took another trip to the ER and underwent a battery of tests.
“They said, ‘Well, you have a blood clot in both lungs and an air cavity in your chest.’”
COVID-19, despite initially being viewed as a respiratory illness, often has been found to cause blood clots in severe cases.
Becker was one of those cases and said he had two pulmonary embolisms. He said, due to the coughing from the disease, one of his lungs had begun to leak air into his chest cavity, as well.
He spent the next two days in the hospital being stabilized for the clots and air pocket and again returned home, directed to avoid coughing if possible.
“Oct. 29 I was on the phone praying with my cousin,” he said. “I started with a massive coughing fit. The left side of body went numb and tingly. I thought that wasn’t normal.”
Becker’s father in law drove him to the hospital, where medical professionals were concerned Becker had a stroke.
“They pulled the stroke alarm,” he said. “You never want to be in that state. They hook a bunch of patches on you. You’re so sick you don’t know what’s going on.”
He was then life flighted to Jabara Airport in Wichita, transported by ambulance to Wesley and stayed there three days for treatment of a small stroke caused by a blood clot that broke free.
“After five ambulance rides and an airplane ride, you’re done with it,” he said of COVID-19. “I’m done with it.”
In Harvey County, on the date Becker first entered the hospital, there were 21 active cases of COVID-19. Today, there are nearly 400. The county averaged two new cases per day. Today, it’s nearly 40 per day.
Hospitals had capacity at the time to provide treatment to patients. Today, across the region, hospitals are now at capacity if not overflowing.
As COVID-19 cases exploded in Kansas, Becker has spent the month of November recovering, undertaking physical therapy and working on his walking time.
“When I got out of hospital, I could walk 10 feet,” he said. “Now I can walk an hour and a half.”
He said he can’t wait to be better and off all the medication.
“Every time they tell me, ‘You can come off of one,’ I’m bouncing for joy,” he said.
He said he’s incredibly fortunate as he could have died on multiple occasions.
“My doc in Newton says, ‘I don’t know how you’re still here, looking at all your lab reports,’” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of people who were where I was at, they have had a funeral.”
Becker credits God and prayer with his survival.
“One-hundred percent through the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in me is what got me through this,” he said, explaining that his sister is a pastor, and she had her congregation praying for him, along with those he’s done mission work with along with other family and friends.
“They were praying around the clock,” he said. “I will contribute 99 percent of me getting over this to my faith versus through medicine.”
While he said faith got him through, he encourages all area residents to not take chances with the disease. He said he’s learned that anyone can spread and contract it, and a severe case of COVID is no joke.
“It’s not just a virus but a disease, and it affects other parts of your body, and it can have long-term effects,” he said.
Harvey County has been averaging more than 40 cases per day. Hospitals across the region are full, making it harder and harder to access the care that Becker received.
He also encouraged people to do what they can, including wearing coverings when around people, to prevent the disease.
“Everyone complains about the shutdowns,” he said. “You know how you could avoid the shutdown? If you’d wear a face shield or a face mask. No one wants to do that, and we’re going to end up in that again. And then they’re going to whine and complain because we’re in that. It’s spreading because no one wants to react to it.”