Recovered from COVID, Southard thanks hospital

Brighton Police Chief credits hospital staff, care for his survival

Belen Ward
bward@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/25/22

For Brighton Police Chief Paul Southard, COVID-19 was quite literally a nightmare. In a speech broadcast over the Platte Valley Medical Center public address system on May 13, he thanked the hospital …

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Recovered from COVID, Southard thanks hospital

Brighton Police Chief credits hospital staff, care for his survival

Posted

For Brighton Police Chief Paul Southard, COVID-19 was quite literally a nightmare.

In a speech broadcast over the Platte Valley Medical Center public address system on May 13, he thanked the hospital for helping him recover from a 15-day long COVID-induced daze.

“During those 15 days on a ventilator, I experienced terrifying hallucinations, more real than any dream,” Southard said.

Southard returned to the hospital on May 13 to take a “Survivor Walk” down the halls, thanking the staff that saved him. Before the walk, he addressed the entire hospital over the public address system.

Southard said in his speech that when he and his wife Karen arrived at the emergency room on March 24, 2020, he was in very poor condition.

“That’s the last thing I remember until 15 days later, when I heard someone saying my name and asking me if I knew where I was,” Southard said.

When Southard tried to get out of bed, he could not stand and had no idea where he was but could see people walking around in personal protective equipment. Then the medical staff told him he had contracted COVID-19.

Southard acknowledged the terrible toll of the disease, noting he was

fortunate to get the care he did.

“Unlike many others, I was fortunate to have survived due to heroic measures carried out by a fantastic group of professionals at this hospital. I’m here with you today, “ he said. “Unfortunately, nearly one million people in the United States have died due to COVID-related complications. Without the expert care from providers like you, how many more may have succumbed to this dreaded virus.”

Southard was released from Platte Valley about three weeks later, on April 15. As he was wheeled out of the hospital front entrance, members of the Brighton Police Department, Brighton Fire Rescue District, the city of Brighton, PVMC, and other local agencies applauded his recovery, and members of the police department saluted him. 

Southard is not the first COVID survivor to return to the hospital to say thanks, according to hospital chaplain Rosalie Osian. It’s become a tradition, she said.

“We had five patients visit us the past few days taking the ‘Survivor Walk.’ Three patients were admitted here with COVID in early 2020, and the other two later. We’re so excited and they are doing well. We wish that more would come,” Osian said.

Kurt Gensert, Chief Nursing Officer COO at Platte Valley, said Southard’s survival was due to the care team coming together despite not having any background knowledge on the treatment of the virus. Instead, they had to base their treatment on intuition, trading stories with other hospitals.

As the pandemic wore on and science improved it became more of a cookbook approach, Gensert said.

“When Paul arrived, we initially figured out just what was happening in our country at the very beginning during those early days in March,” Gensert said. “When we think about the gravity of his illness in retrospect, with Paul’s instance, he was either the first or second case admitted that we did not benefit from knowing anything about how to treat the disease.”

It’s good to see him now, Gensert said. 

“He was especially inspirational to the care team because we remember him being in that very foggy place, but also sort of scary place not knowing what to do,” Gensert said. “Of course, we had no vaccine at that point. And our care teams were showing up to work every day preparing about themselves in their own families, and with PPE,” he added.

But Southard said his survival happened because of the care he got.

“You are all truly angels who brought me back from the brink. Without your dedication, many of us would not be here today. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, my wife Karen, my family and my friends thank you, as do many more families who didn’t have the experience to lose a loved one during the pandemic,” Southard said.

His wife Karen, agreed.

“I like to say to the staff for taking such well care of my husband. The physicians, the nurses, the respiratory therapists, the CNAs environmental services kept everything so safe and clean and nutritional services,” she said. “I can imagine it was scary, it was a team effort, and they’re saving lives here. I love this hospital, the people, and the leadership. Thank you so much.”

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