James “Nathan” Watkins is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and feels ready to return to his normal, pre-pandemic life with his wife, Monique, and two sons, Jonathon and James. The future looks bright for the Watkins family.
This could not be said in July 2020, when Nathan was fighting for his life in the hospital.
Nathan is a stay-at-home father from Charleston — West Virginia’s state capital. In 2017, the Watkins family moved to Middletown, Ohio, as Monique accepted a teaching job with the Butler County Educational Service Center. With his youngest son, James, having autism spectrum disorder, Nathan manages the household and gives him the support he needs.
In mid-July 2020, Nathan took James to see his pediatrician. During the visit, he noticed that he was having difficulty breathing and felt fatigued. When he got home, Monique recommended he see his doctor at a community hospital. Thinking it wasn’t anything too serious, Nathan saw his doctor and assumed he would return home soon after.
Instead, he was airlifted to UC Medical Center after emergently being placed on a ventilator for acute respiratory distress syndrome from COVID-19. Nathan’s doctor suspected he had COVID-19 but couldn’t treat him locally given the severity of his lung failure.
“They triaged me and told me that my oxygen level was at 85%,” James remembers. “They also told me this was an emergency. I don’t even remember the flight transport.”
Nathan never expected he would contract COVID-19. He always followed the precautions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including wearing a mask and social distancing while in public. On top of that, he was only 39 years old at the time.
Things happened so quickly that Monique, Jonathon and James were not able to say goodbye to Nathan. They could only wait and hope for the best.