45-year-old Chris Tillett is a Wilton father of five month old twin boys who is now home with his family after spending weeks in the hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19. His wife, Elizabeth Tillett says she is proud of his fight and is sharing his story to offer both hope and caution to others in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elizabeth Tillett says Chris contracted COVID-19 attending a work conference in San Francisco, California at the end of February. He became the first person in Connecticut to be diagnosed and spent weeks in the ICU at Danbury Hospital in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator. Elizabeth says that Chris has a pre-existing heart condition, but has no other medical issues.
While Chris was in the hospital, Elizabeth and their twin boys remained quarantined at home. Unable to be at her husband’s side, Elizabeth says faith, family and friends got her through. “The outpouring of love and support from people was constant and unfailing.”
During the hospital stay, Elizabeth says she was able to see Chris via FaceTime thanks to the social worker and nurses at the hospital. “Every care provider including environmental service employees, food service employees, laboratory employees, the case manager, etc. is a hero to me and my family,” she says.
Elizabeth also says that her network in Stamford helped them tremendously. The couple lived in Stamford for many years before moving to Wilton. Chris commuted to NYC daily from the Stamford train station and Elizabeth practiced nursing in Stamford in private homes, public health outreach, as well as in the Stamford School District. She also owns a family photography company, Freshly Budded Photography and had a store front on Summer Street for years.
“I was home alone quarantined unexpectedly with two preemie infants and a husband in a coma, and I didn’t have to think about or worry about food for myself or my babies from day one,” explains Elizabeth.
Elizabeth says that while Chris is now home and has come far from being completely dependent on a ventilator, with Acute Respiratory Failure and the infection throughout his body, he has a great deal of rehabilitation to go before he is able to return to work and baseline functioning.
“Our follow up now is primarily with two Stamford medical providers, husband and wife team Dr. Peter McAllister, Chief Medical Officer of The New England Institute for Neurology and Headache and Dr. Caryn McAllister, Director of Physical Therapy and President of High Quality Home Therapy. Dr. Peter McAllister is directing my husband’s neurological care, addressing his marked cognitive deficits. There is a risk of oxygen deprivation damage, hyperthermic damage related to high prolonged fevers, and/or a risk of mini strokes related to Chris’ systemic infection and oxygenation issues with this virus.” She continues, “We also plan to reach out to Dr. Caryn McAllister seeking rehabilitative services to regain Chris’ strength and functional abilities.”
With everyone in our area now quarantining and social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19, Elizabeth hopes her husband’s story gives people hope.
“This virus has affected the world, and people globally sharing their experiences and treatment regimens gave me hope that people can survive this. I hope my husband’s story in turn gives people hope that they too can conquer COVID-19,” she says.
Elizabeth also urges everyone to take the virus seriously.
“Practice social distancing. Go to essential business when it is just that: essential. Otherwise please stay home. It will allow the healthcare system time and resources to better treat the sheer numbers of cases. Many may test positive and be able to be sent home, their immune system being able to fight it like the flu with mere supportive measures. But for others it can cause fatal complications.” She continues, “If my husband had not had access to a ventilator and an ICU hospital bed, he would have died.”
Photos c/o Elyssia Poland Photography