Nurse of the Week: Pediatric NP Joseph Vine Returns to Work After 56 Days on a Ventilator

Nurse of the Week: Pediatric NP Joseph Vine Returns to Work After 56 Days on a Ventilator

San Antonio, Texas NP Joseph Vine must be a descendant of the Unsinkable Molly Brown. After a brutal bout with Covid-19 left him in a medically induced coma for two months last year, our Nurse of the Week proceeded to push through a lengthy recovery period. Now, glad to be back treating youngsters at his pediatric urgent care clinic, he says, “I’m almost back to where I was before.”

But Vine endured a frightening ordeal in the interim between “before” and now. In June 2020, Covid entered the life of the 41-year-old father of three. Coughing and gasping for breath, he reached the ED at Northeast Baptist Hospital – just barely. “I was feeling so horrible,” he told News 4 San Antonio. “I was sure I had Covid, and basically as soon as I got to the ER, they were telling me they were going to have to intubate me.” His prospects for survival were dubious. In fact, Vine’s wife Anayuri said, “They thought he was not going to make it.” The couple had been married less than two years and Anayuri had recently given birth to a girl when Vine was admitted. Suddenly, her husband was inaccessible, lying comatose in the ICU and breathing with the aid of machines. For Anayuri and the baby, he had effectively vanished. “I couldn’t see him for two months,” she recalled.

Vine survived, after spending 56 days on a ventilator. His return to consciousness in August 2020 was met with relief – and relieved surprise – by his wife, friends, and doctors. He recalls, “I actually came out of it, which they never thought I would do… They were like, ‘Wow, he’s actually awake!’ A lot of people didn’t expect that to happen.”

When Northeast Baptist finally discharged him in October last year, Vine, like many post ICU patients, was almost as helpless as a newborn infant. (The NP, who has no insurance, had to cope with financial helplessness as well. He emerged with nearly $2 million in medical costs, and friends helped raise the funds for his rehabilitation treatment).

When he came home, Vine was suffering from nerve damage, and his right foot was entirely out of commission. Doctors warned that the foot might never regain its function. “They said,” he recalled, “If it’s not going to be here in 48 hours from when we first observed it, it’s most likely not coming back at all.” However, drawing upon the special reserves of discipline, determination, and “Yes I can” attitude that allows nurses to do what they do, the NP learned to walk again before his baby daughter Charlotte had mastered crawling. Charlotte – who was born just five months before Vine entered the hospital and is now 21 months old – had to become reacquainted with her father when he finally came home. She will be able to keep pace with Dad better than most toddlers, as he’s still wearing a foot brace, but Vine cheerfully remarked, “… I’m a lot more mobile now. I’m very encouraged. I think it’s going to come back even more.”

As his recovery progressed, Vine started treating patients via telehealth while still on a walker. By January 2021, he returned to the clinic on a part-time basis and transitioned to full-time two months later. “Being here and making a difference and helping people was a motivating goal to get back to. I missed the connections with my patients.” Since his recovery from Covid, Vine is also well-positioned to comfort families when one of his young patients contracts the disease. “When I talk to families, they’re often nervous, scared. It may be their first time that this has touched their family. I’m able to give them advice or help relieve some of the symptoms and talk about the course, and then also follow up with them… kind of being part of their process to make sure that nothing’s getting worse for them. That seems to really help them.”

For more on Joseph Vine’s story, see News 4 San Antonio and this excellent long-read at the San Antonio Express News.