Rick Huggins was discharged from M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital in early May after spending 30 days on a ventilator.
ST PAUL, Minn. — The trip from Rick Huggins’ Eden Prairie home to Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul is about 30 miles, but it’s far from the avid cyclist’s most difficult journey.
“COVID was terrible,” Huggins said. “I was on a ventilator for 30 days, lost 35 pounds, had nine blood transfusions.”
Huggins was one of the first patients admitted at M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital after it reopened as the state’s only dedicated COVID-19 hospital in March. The 51-year-old, who had no pre-existing conditions, spent 50 days there before being discharged in May.
“There were so many doctors and nurses that cared for me and saved my life,” said. “They never gave up on me ever. Ever.”
Saturday Huggins embarked on his longest ride since getting sick: A nearly 60-mile round trip from his Eden Prairie home to Bethesda, where he thanked the healthcare workers who saved his life.
“I wanted to do this today to celebrate. It’s right around 100 days of recovery from COVID. It’s not to celebrate me. I’ve had my celebrations every day since. It’s to celebrate all of you guys,” he said to the healthcare workers lined up outside Bethesda.
Huggins, who says he still only has about 70% of his lung capacity, rang Bethesda’s “discharge bell” for a second time Saturday. The first was after he was discharged from the hospital in early May.
“There were many nights where we were like, ‘oh my gosh, please. You just got to make it through today. You just got to make it through tonight,'” recalled Thea Hedstrom, a nurse at Bethesda who helped care for Huggins. “Just to see Rick gives us a little more motivation. This is why we’re here.”
Huggins was joined on his bicycle trip Saturday by the husband of one of the nurses who cared for him at Bethesda.