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When they entered Alta View Hospital with coronavirus symptoms, Carol and John Moody received much the same treatment.
Hospital staffers pumped extra oxygen into them. The Moodys were placed on their stomachs to boost their oxygen intake. The husband and wife also received plasma from donors who previously had COVID-19.
Those measures worked — for John.
Carol died May 21 at LDS Hospital, where she had been taken after her condition worsened. She was 71.
The virus “took away the most important person in my life,” 76-year-old John, who is home and still recovering, said in a brief telephone interview Thursday.
Raised in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood, Carol was living and working in Palm Springs, Calif., when she met John’s mother in church. Her future mother-in-law asked if she wanted to write John, who was then in Scotland on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The two corresponded for a year. Three days after returning from his mission, John asked Carol to marry him. They were together for five decades.
The couple moved to Utah after the birth of their first son. Carol worked in child care and later joined the Mama Dragons, a women’s group that supports LGBTQ Latter-day Saints.
The coronavirus sickened four other people as well in the Moody family. In interviews, the family members described how doctors tried to save Carol and John.
Their medical methods point out a truth that has frustrated health care workers around the world: What works for one patient doesn’t necessarily work for another.
The virus has been deadlier for men in the United States than for women and for patients with underlying health conditions. John has had heart problems, including triple-bypass surgery 15 years ago, daughter-in-law Hilary Moody said. Carol had Type 2 diabetes.
“This took her out too quickly and shocked us all,” said son-in-law Glen Hoen. “I wake up in disbelief that she’s gone.”
Carol and John Moody lived in the basement of a Sandy home belonging to son Roger and his wife, Hilary. John said he and Carol were careful to social distance.
Yet Carol began showing symptoms May 5. The family doesn’t know how she got infected.
“The health department doesn’t come back to you and say, ‘Hey, you got it from so and so,’” said another son, Robert.
On May 7, Hilary drove her mother-in-law to the testing site in the parking lot of Sandy’s Alta View Hospital. The coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, so staffers checked the oxygen level in Carol’s blood.
Her daughter-in-law said her oxygen level tested at 82% or 83% — a dangerously low rate. Carol was admitted to Alta View that day.
She never went home again.
The family wasn’t allowed to visit Carol in person but kept in contact with her and the personnel treating her. Hilary said hospital workers tried to help her mother-in-law’s breathing by giving her a few liters of oxygen.
“Then it went up to 4 or 5 liters,” Hilary said.
Doctors and nurses worked to improve Carol’s breathing by placing her on her stomach for up to 10 hours at a time. Called proning, this flip has become a popular way to treat acute COVID-19 patients. Being on one’s stomach allows more oxygen to enter the lungs. On one’s back, body weight can squeeze the lungs.
Hilary said the proning might have slowed her mother-in-law’s decline, but her breathing troubles persisted. On May 12, an ambulance transferred her to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City’s Avenues neighborhood. That hospital has created a special ward for coronavirus patients, and staffers also are working with some experimental treatments to combat the virus.
At LDS, Carol received a transfusion of blood plasma from a patient who had recovered from the virus, her family said. The procedure is designed to deliver antibodies that may exist in the donor’s plasma.
Physicians also gave Carol tocilizumab. Marketed as Actemra, this immunosuppressive drug is used primarily to treat rheumatoid arthritis. In clinical trials underway across the country, it’s being tried on coronavirus patients whose immune systems may be overreacting to the virus and further inflaming the lungs.
But Carol continued her decline. On May 14, LDS Hospital arranged for her to speak to her family on a FaceTime call.
“We thought we were saying goodbye,” Hilary said.
Carol was on a ventilator and unable to communicate much, her relatives said. She wrote on a board, urging them to tell other family members, “I love them so much.”
More infections follow
By then, husband John had tested positive for COVID-19, too. He was admitted May 18 to Alta View.
“It was rough,” son Robert said. “We didn’t know it was anything serious at first with my mom. So it was scary because you see your dad being checked in. You go through the worst-case scenario in your head.”
When John’s temperature shot up to 103 degrees, medical personnel placed ice packs under his armpits to cool him. He, too, was placed on his stomach and received a plasma transfusion.
“That’s when he started turning the corner a little bit," Hilary said, “and started getting a little better.”
Hilary and Roger contracted COVID-19 as well. The couple isolated in different bedrooms of their home, suffering the symptoms while also trying to stay up to date on what was happening to Roger’s parents. Their 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter had to bring them food and medicine — and clean and manage the household — while also doing their schoolwork. The kids have not gotten sick.
“I have my nephew and niece watching what’s happening to [their grandparents],” Robert said, “and then worrying if their own parents would go into the hospital.”
Robert and his husband, Glen Hoen, also caught the virus. The two isolated themselves in their Taylorsville condominium.
“It’s nasty,” John said of COVID-19. “When they say wash your hands, do this, do that, you better be doing it.”
‘One of those numbers is Carol’
By May 21, the family says, Carol had been diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. Fluid collects in the lungs’ air sacs, depriving organs of oxygen. It’s a common COVID-19 complication.
It became clear Carol would die.
LDS Hospital arranged for conference calls so the family could give a final farewell to Carol, who was unconscious.
John spoke via telephone from his Sandy hospital room to his wife of 49 years in a Salt Lake City hospital.
“When I hear that so many people have been tested, that so many people have been positive, one of those numbers is Carol,” he lamented Thursday. “One of those numbers is my wife.”
She died that day.
John went home Tuesday.
Before his retirement, he worked as a respiratory therapist and has been doing exercises to recover his lung capacity. He says he is still fatigued, as are his two sons and their spouses who fell ill. All five say they are recovering.
The heartbreaking ordeal has changed Hilary. She fears being around other people, especially large groups.
“Just don’t take any relationship for granted,” she advised, “because you don’t know.”
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Most of the Utahns who have died from COVID-19 have done so in anonymity. Health departments do not release their names because of patient privacy laws. When families publish obituaries online or in newspapers, only a few mention COVID-19 as a cause of death.
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