On April 5, the Monday before The Masters, Scott Dorsett, 64, woke up in an ICU bed. When he came to, after being under and on a ventilator for two months, he was staring at a television tuned in to a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club.
“I’m in heaven,” Dorsett thought.
His wife of 39 years, Robin, then came over to Scott and kissed him on his forehead. That’s when he realized he was in a hospital room, he had slept through February and March and he had survived Covid and double pneumonia but still had a long way to go.
Scott was diagnosed with Covid-19, which had led to double pneumonia, on January 31, a Sunday. On Saturday, January 30, Scott felt fine – no symptoms, no fatigue, no sign of Covid. He and his family had gone out to eat that evening, and he’d seen his 91-year-old father a few days before that.
Robin and their oldest son also had Covid-19 but showed no symptoms and felt no adverse effects. Scott’s father never tested positive.
On February 4, Scott was admitted to the Covid Unit at UNC Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill. No visitors are allowed in the Covid unit, so Scott and Robin had to communicate via phone after he was hospitalized.
He was flushed with an infusion and placed in prone, where an individual lies on their stomach – research found lying in prone helps air distribution in the lungs. But Scott’s lungs were in bad shape and, to save his life, the doctors advised placing him on a ventilator.
“I think the pneumonia had ravaged my lungs and I was just exhausted,” Dorsett said. “The nurse put Robin on the phone, and we talked a little bit. We’d never heard anything good much about ventilators, but I was exhausted. I said ‘Honey, it’s either going to heaven or going on a ventilator.’”
Scott sent an emotional video to Robin before going on the ventilator to tell her how much he loves her and that he was counting on a miracle to pull through and see her and his family again.
“He said he was going on the ventilator and assured us that the doctor said we don't put people on a ventilator to die, we put it on as a chance to save your life, your body just needs to rest,” Robin Dorsett said. “So, he went on the ventilator.”
That call is the last thing he remembered before waking up on April 5. But a lot happened during those two months Scott was asleep and on the machine.
Because Robin couldn’t visit the Covid unit, the doctors would call her daily with updates on Scott.
“They would make their rounds, and would call me anywhere between noon and, the latest was like, four o'clock, usually,” Robin Dorsett said. “So, I just waited every day for that call, and they would tell me what they saw and how he was doing – that was really hard.”
She said the hardest part was, probably, waiting on that daily phone call, never knowing what to expect.
To keep folks updated, Robin began taking notes during the daily phone calls, and their daughter would post them to Facebook. And folks wanted to know.
“People – my high school friends, his high school friends, people that we haven't talked to in forever – were keeping up with it [on Facebook] and commenting and praying,” Robin Dorsett said.
Scott remained in the Covid unit until March 4, exactly a month after he went in, and was then moved into the ICU. Robin said doctors were still concerned, as he was still testing positive for Covid-19 and very sick.
Robin was then allowed to see her husband, but, early on, Scott was sedated. Still, she began going every afternoon.
Scott stayed in the ICU for another month, still pretty sedated but improving slowly, but surely, all the while. However, Robin said doctors began to grow concerned he’d been on the ventilator too long.
“[The doctors said] because it's in your throat, it can do damage to your throat, it can do some damage to your vocal cords, it can cause more infections,” Robin Dorsett said. “So, they asked me about a tracheotomy.”
Robin said she was told a tracheotomy would prevent any further damage to Scott’s throat caused by the mouth ventilator tube, as well help wean him off the ventilator and sedative drugs.
When they did this, Scott experienced withdrawals. After the tracheotomy was performed, doctors focused much of their efforts on getting Scott’s heartbeat and blood pressure, among other things, under control.
“The first thing they said is this is a marathon, not a sprint and I told them, ‘Well, that's really a good expression, but I would say it's more like a roller coaster marathon,’” Robin Dorsett said. “When you think of a marathon, [you know what to expect]. But he was good, he was bad. He had a good day, had a bad day. He had another virus in his lungs, he had a blood clot. It was up and down.”
It was a very long process, as Scott had to be weaned off the sedatives gradually. Finally, when he was stable, he was moved out of ICU and into UNC Hospital Hillsborough.
Robin said, when Scott was moved there, the head nurse told her, “Our job here is to get him off the ventilator."
So, they began turning off the ventilator for a few hours at a time and letting Scott breathe on his own. As time went on, the time the ventilator was off grew longer and longer.
When Scott was finally fully taken off the ventilator, he’d been on it for 50 days.
Then, on April 5, after sleeping for two months and one day, Scott Dorsett woke up. Robin was by his side.
“February 4 to April 5... I was just overwhelmed, pretty much, when I woke up I had none of the Covid fog that they talk about,” Dorsett said.
Scott had no Covid fog, no memory or vision troubles. In fact, as soon as he woke up, he began answering emails, texts, social media messages and letters.
He found messages from family and friends, close ones and ones he hadn’t spoken to in years.
Scott mentioned a note from a guy, he didn’t remember his name, who he’d bought an NC State sweatshirt and basketball for when the guy’s, who was a boy at the time, father died. Scott didn’t remember doing that.
He had another note from a woman, who now lives in Georgia, whose house he’d sold over 20 years ago.
Scott also received a video from Tim Nichols, writer of Tim McGraw’s hit, “Live Like You Were Dying.”
Scott said he was very overwhelmed by the support, help and prayers for him and his family.
“I probably had 1,000 people praying for me all over, people I didn’t even know, it just spread and spread,” Dorsett said. “That woman right there – he pointed to Robin – was a rock, she willed me, and the good Lord put all the doctors and nurses there.”
However, everything was far from back to normal when Scott was off the ventilator and awake. There was still a long road to climb before he could go home.
Scott had lost 54 pounds, hadn’t stood up in months, and still had Covid in his system. To build his strength back up, he had to go through daily, vigorous physical therapy.
“The rehab was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life,” Dorsett said. “If you'd have told me that, at 64, sitting up on the side of the bed, standing up and taking a step would be the hardest thing by far, [I wouldn’t have believed it].”
At first, Scott said simply standing up for two seconds made him shaky and dizzy, like he’d “been on a boat for four hours.” Often, he wondered if he could do it. But he was inspired to push through.
“I just look at the faith of Robin and my friends who prayed me through, all the good doctors and nurses that the Lord put in front of us who saved my life and, you know, I just had to do it, I had to force myself to do it,” Dorsett said.
On May 4, Scott was accepted into UNC’s Acute Inpatient Rehab. He was evaluated on May 5, but had a coughing spell that morning.
Because of this, the nurse put ‘Not up for therapy yet,’ on the board.
“All she meant, innocently enough, was I hadn't gotten out of bed and she was letting her coworkers know,” Dorsett said. “ But I was like, ‘Oh, she didn't think I'm ready to work.’ So, she was gone the next day, and I was bent, I even shut my eyes, which they tell you not to do, and just bit my lip and got up.”
That first day, Scott walked about 60 steps. Two and a half weeks later, during his last session, he walked 600 steps.
Scott said he’s more than appreciative to UNC Memorial Hospital’s staff for everything they did to save his life, which means a lot coming from him, Robin joked.
“He’s hated Carolina his whole life, because his dad went to NC State, he went to State, all our kids went to State, and I went to Carolina, but he’s taught my kids to hate UNC,” Robin Dorsett said. “So when he went to UNC, I said, ‘So when they save your life are you going to change your mind about UNC?’ and he wore a UNC shirt [when he went home].”
And, finally, he did go home. On May 25, after 111 days, Scott walked out of the hospital.
Scott hadn’t seen his dad since a couple days before he contracted Covid-19, and that was hard, especially for his father, as the two are extremely close.
“He lost his wife like the year before Covid started, so Scott had gone over there a lot,” Robin Dorsett said. “Every night he took the dog over after dinner. It was hard during Covid, so his dad really missed him when he couldn't go over there anymore. He didn't go to the hospital either.”
When Scott was released, his fully vaccinated dad was waiting for his son with open arms.
Scott Dorsett’s 111 day stay in the hospital, his time on the ventilator and his struggle to recover only cemented the new perspective he was gaining before he even became ill.
“Before I got sick, I told one of my buddies, I said, ‘I'm a sorry human being,’” Dorsett said. “He said, ‘What are you talking about, Scott?’ I said, ‘I was probably 60 years old before I bought a couple people's meals behind me in line at Wendy's, why’d it take that long?’ He said, ‘You can't think about it that way.’ I said ‘I was probably 63 before I bought an elderly ladies groceries in Food Lion and made her cry tears of joy, why did it take so long?’”
However, as evident by the thousand plus people concerned about him, and as Robin said, Scott has always been a giver. But now, he said he has more self-awareness than ever before.
“I've got a testimony, God spared me,” Dorsett said. “I had the love, support and faith of the best woman in the world. All these friends, this has been overwhelming, it's been absolutely overwhelming. I was at UNC for 111 days – from on the verge of death to walking out of that hospital, it was just a miracle.”
Scott needed a miracle, he prayed for a miracle, the community prayed for a miracle; Scott had faith he’d get a miracle; the community did too. And, as he sat in his home, telling his story, it sure seems like he got one.
“This is, really, a story about the power of prayer, of the Good Lord sparing me,” Dorsett said.
Scott’s getting better day by day, but he isn’t fully recovered yet. “I'm hacking up this clear gunk that is still in my lungs. I think my lungs are probably 75 percent right now. I’m still on two liters of oxygen.”
And he won’t be 100 percent until he reaches an important, personal milestone, Robin said.
“Until he gets back on the golf course, he’s not done.”