JACKSON CENTER – If he and his family had taken COVID-19 more seriously, Warren Sprague Jr. said, he might have avoided being hospitalized for nine days and the pain of losing his brother.
Warren spent one day at Wilson Memorial Hospital in Sidney and eight more at St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima battling COVID-19. More than a month after being diagnosed with the disease, he’s still on the mend but feeling much better.
His wife of 52 years, Karen Sprague, also is feeling better after spending one night in the hospital with COVID-19.
Now that they’re progressing in their recovery and have laid to rest Warren’s brother, Larry Sprague, the Jackson Center couple hope sharing their experience will convince others to take precautions such as wearing a mask when out in public to guard against the virus.
“That little bit of inconvenience is a lot better than having to go to the hospital and be put on oxygen and go through all that we went through for the last month or so,” Warren said. “And we’re still not over it and how much longer is it going to take me to recover, I don’t know.”
The Spragues aren’t sure how they contracted COVID-19. Larry, age 67, was the first to exhibit symptoms including a headache and chest discomfort.
Two days later, Warren, 73, developed a headache and chest discomfort that he initially dismissed as allergies. He visited his family doctor for medication to combat the suspected allergies and was sent to urgent care in Sidney to be tested for COVID-19. The next day, on Aug. 1, he was informed he tested positive.
Warren and Karen, 74, quarantined at their home while Larry quarantined at his home. As his condition deteriorated, Warren decided he needed to go to the hospital and was taken to Wilson by an ambulance on Aug. 7.
“I think that was the scariest time is leaving here because I really didn’t know if I was going to be coming back home at that point,” Warren said.
“The worst part was I didn’t want to leave my wife, and I definitely didn’t want to be putting a burden onto my girls.”
One of the couple’s neighbors previously died as a result of COVID-19, adding to their anxiety.
“I was scared,” Karen said. “It was kind of an empty feeling when he left.”
Larry reported being out of breath from walking to his mailbox but didn’t seek medical help. After he didn’t answer phone calls the morning of Aug. 8, one of Warren and Karen’s daughters went to his house and found he had died.
“I called him before I went to the hospital, and I told him, I said, ‘Larry, I love you so much,’” Warren said.
“He, I think, felt as though he was probably going to ward it off and treat it like the flu and get over it. But this is much, much more serious than that. And now I’ve kind of lost my right arm because he and I, we farmed together and we did everything together.”
A memorial service for Larry – who worked for 30 years with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 40 years as a volunteer of the Jackson Center Fire Department, 17 years as an auxiliary member of the Jackson Center Police Department and 28 years as a Jackson Township trustee – is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Sept. 11 at Bambauer Fertilizer & Seed in Jackson Center.
“He was just one of those kind, serving type of individuals,” Warren said, adding his brother also would plow snow for elderly neighbors. “I was just proud to have him as a brother.”
After a day at Wilson, Warren was transferred to St. Rita’s for more intensive care. He was treated with oxygen, a steroid and Remdesivir. He credited that care and his Christian faith for his recovery.
“As I went into the hospital, I prayed to the good Lord that he take care of me – come into my life, heal my body and take care of me – because it was totally out of my control at that point in time,” Warren said.
While Warren was at St. Rita’s, Karen was admitted to Wilson because of COVID-19. She didn’t have the breathing problems her husband or brother-in-law experienced but had terrible nausea.
One of the Sprague’s daughters, Kimberly Voress, took a leave of absence from her job as a respiratory therapist at Wilson to take care of Karen, and eventually Warren, at home.
“She just said, ‘Don’t worry, Mom. You’re not going to go through this alone,’” Karen said.
The couple’s other two daughters, Cindy Copeland and Christy Akers, also helped out by delivering supplies and helping to plan Larry’s funeral.
The medical backgrounds of two of the daughters were helpful as well.
Voress’ experience as a respiratory therapist was beneficial when the family made morning and evening calls to St. Rita’s to talk to Warren and check on his condition. Copeland, a physical therapist, was able to create exercise regiments for her parents once they returned home to help them regain their strength.
“Each one of them played a big part in getting us through this,” said Warren, who remained on oxygen for several days after being discharged from the hospital.
At home, the Spragues appreciated the cards and food sent to them by friends and members of their church.
“We’ve just had such an outpouring of help from friends and our church family and people near us,” Warren said. “It’s just been wonderful. We’re just so grateful to have all that response coming back to us.”
They’re also grateful for the care they received at Wilson and St. Rita’s.
“I can’t say enough about how they took care of me at both hospitals,” Warren said. “The care was wonderful. I thank all the nurses that came in my room for their kindness and taking care of me the way they did.
“And believe it or not, the food up at St. Rita’s was pretty good. You always think of hospital food being terrible, but I looked forward to each meal.”
The Spragues hope people will take precautions against COVID-19 such as wearing a mask, ensuring it covers their mouth and nose.
“Please, whatever you do, make sure you take this COVID-19 very serious,” Warren said. “If we would have maybe worn our masks more often, that might have helped us.”
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