Liberty man shares story of COVID-19 survival

Posted at 11:20 AM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 19:38:35-04

LIBERTY, Mo. — Gary Seley, a Vietnam-era veteran in his 70s, has a number of health conditions. His family said he had a "marker on his back" when COVID-19 became a threat.

Though the odds were stacked against him, he beat the virus and is now recovering.

Seley was in the intensive care unit at Liberty Hospital for 40 days and was released last Friday.

His wife, Sharon, was the first family member he saw. They were finally able to hug each other after so long.

"I didn't know that I was ever going to see her again. After 40 days, I cried, she cried," Gary said.

Seley got sick at the end of March. He had been staying inside, only going out to the grocery store occasionally. Somehow, he still got sick.

"The same evening he went into the hospital on March 30, he got ventilated," Seley's son, Shane, said. "And, literally, my mom dropped him off at the ER and we didn't see him for 40 days."

The family relied only on the nurses at the hospital for updates.

At one point, the family had to accept that Seley might not make it. He had a 20% chance of surviving.

"It didn't look good," Shane said. "So that was kind of tough. Tough not to be there and be able to help and hold his hand or be in the room."

After 14 days on a ventilator, the doctors told the family Seley ripped out his own breathing tube. Seley calls that moment an out-of-body experience.

"I took the tube out of my face. I was high (up) and I could see them," Seley said. "I was small, very small. And they were all working on me, which was pretty wild."

Seley has heart problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes. His kidneys had shut down.

"They stuck me in every arm. Took blood every day, chest X-rays," Seley said.

Amazingly, he started to get better, even without the breathing tube.

"It's a testament to my dad's determination, his character. And it's a testament to everyone at the hospital," Shane said.

Seley took two more COVID-19 tests, and they came back negative.

His nurses and hospital staff lined the halls, cheering and clapping as Seley was wheeled out of the hospital, able to reunite with his family again.

Seley can't say enough about those nurses and doctors who worked day-in and day-out to take care of him.

"What do you do to thank somebody for saving your life? That's a pretty big deal," Seley said.