ST PAUL, Minn. — Fewer than a thousand people live in Buffalo Center, Iowa. On March 31st, all of them seemed to be on the same road.
“It was a very 'Field of Dreams' moment,” Rachel Rolling says.
It’s been nearly three weeks since Rachel has seen her fiancé, the beneficiary of the show of support in his Iowa hometown.
Troy Kettwick remains in United Hospital in St. Paul, now off the ventilator that kept him alive for nearly two weeks as COVID-19 attacked his lungs.
“It was scary,” Rachel says. “No way around that.”
On Friday, March 20th, Troy came home from his recruiting job for an IT company more tired than usual.
He had none of the risk factors associated with COVID-19. He was 25 years old, had no underlying medical conditions, had been a four-sport high school athlete and played baseball in college.
“He was just showing your basic flu like symptoms, he never complained of chest pains, he didn’t really have a cough,” Rachel says. “And that Monday following he just started to run a really high fever.”
Rachel called an ask-a-nurse line and was told to watch Troy’s fever. By Tuesday it hadn’t come down.
First, she took Troy to urgent care, then to United Hospital where his condition worsened and he was placed on a ventilator in intensive care.
With Troy heavily sedated, his family and Rachel were briefed remotely two to three times a day by Troy's doctor and nurses.
“There's something so difficult about not just being able to be present with your loved one, even if they're not awake, to have them know that you're there for support,” Rachel says.
But there was never a doubt about the support in Troy's hometown.
While Troy lay in intensive care, the people of Buffalo Center and the surrounding area rallied around his family. On dusk on March 31st, their parade of cars looped past the nursing home where Troy’s grandma lives and headed into the countryside where his parents stood, arms locked, at the end of their driveway.
The parade of drivers honked and offered support from safe distances into the night. The cars and trucks kept coming for 45 minutes.
Rachel, who watched on a live stream, had started dating Troy in high school. These were her people too.
“There are not words to describe that,” she says. “Even now that we live a couple hours away in a big city, that’s still our home.”
After 12 days on the ventilator, Troy’s condition improved enough to breathe on his own. He came off the ventilator last Tuesday.
“A very good day,” Rachel says.
She still hasn’t seen Troy. COVID-19 restrictions have kept her away for nearly three weeks. But she’s hoping he’ll be out of the hospital sometime this week.
They have a wedding date set for August 15th.
On Easter, Rachel gave thanks for prayers answered. She expressed gratitude for the doctors and nurses who saved Troy’s life and asked anyone who hears her words to heed the warnings about social distancing.
Then, she thanked her people in Iowa and sent a message home from Troy.
“He so appreciates all the love and all the prayers; all the support that they showed for me and for his parents when he couldn’t be there,” she said.
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