"We came home from vacation on a Saturday, and a week later he was on a ventilator,” Carol Fox said.
On March 8, Carol and Carter Fox returned to their home at Westminster Canterbury Richmond, a retirement center, from a trip to Florida. Carter has Parkinson’s disease, so no one initially associated his weakness with COVID-19. His doctor in Florida sent the couple back to Richmond suggesting they would be safer. This was before recommendations on social distancing and travel restrictions were in place.
“Carter didn’t have any typical symptoms,” Carol said. “With his Parkinson’s, he had never had a fall. After we got back, he fell on Thursday and he fell again on Saturday. By Sunday he was so weak I said, ‘We’re going to the hospital.’ We knew for a fact that we were going to MCV. We had to pay for the ambulance but there was no doubt about it — we were going to MCV.”
Carter and Carol went to the emergency department at VCU Medical Center on the MCV Campus on Sunday, March 15. Carter was examined to check for injuries from his falls, but his condition deteriorated quickly and his oxygen levels began to drop. An X-ray revealed he had pneumonia. “Within two hours everyone was putting on additional PPE (personal protective equipment). Carter went into the ICU at 9 p.m. that night, and by 4 a.m. Monday morning he was on a ventilator. They told us I had to leave and we had to quarantine,” Carol said.
Carter Fox was the first patient at VCU Medical Center to test positive for COVID-19.
Carol went into quarantine at Westminster Canterbury, which was already on lockdown, and contacted their three children Faulkner, Baylor and Lucy. Baylor came into town to take care of their dog Joe, but the worst part of it all was the waiting.
“We weren’t able to talk to Carter at all at first,” Carol said. “MCV was trying to figure out how to communicate with families. By the next weekend I had gotten him his cell phone so we could FaceTime with him. His nurses were incredible in making that happen. The nurses also read notes that we faxed over. Carter was sedated and on a ventilator for eight days. We have two grandsons who are jazz musicians, and they sent songs for him to listen to.”
After 11 days at VCU Medical Center and two negative COVID-19 test results, Carter was transported to Westminster Canterbury’s healthcare center to finish his recovery. Though now retired, he showed he still had a lot of grit and fight left in him from his days working his way up to CEO of Chesapeake Corp.
Carol has recounted most of his story as Carter’s memories of his time at the hospital are hazy. “I know that there was never any time when I was wanting or needing something that wasn’t there,” Carter said. “The doctors and nurses at MCV are very nice people, “There are a lot of symptoms along with the Parkinson’s that he has to overcome. He’s still dealing with some weakness, and many nights he wakes up confused about where he is, but we take it all in stride and handle it with humor,” Carol said.
Carter and Carol were so grateful for the excellent care he received at VCU Health that they reached out to Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine and VCU Health System executive vice president for medical affairs, to see what they could do to support the healthcare team in their fight against COVID-19. They made a gift to the VCU Health COVID-19 Nursing Research Support Fund, which will support four nurse-led clinical research studies to determine best practices in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Carter and Carol’s daughter Lucy is a social worker and made her parents aware of the extra effort she observed to do everything possible to make Carter comfortable.
“We just knew everything was being done to take care of him,” Carol said. “Carter only had a 10% chance of recovery in every book, but I never knew that. I was never under any assumption other than he was going to get well.”
If you would like to support the VCU Health COVID-19 Response Fund, visit www.support.vcu.edu/covidresponse or contact Carrie Bickford at 804-297-6708 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.