It has now been a couple of months since 22-year-old Hunter Goodpaster returned to his home in West Carrolton, just outside of Dayton, Ohio, after being discharged from UC Medical Center. He spent the last three months of 2021 battling for his life against COVID-19 pneumonia.
Hunter continues his recovery at home with his longtime girlfriend and now fiancé, Payton Chaffin. On Feb. 18, he finally had the tracheostomy tube removed that had been part of his treatment. He has been focusing on getting his voice back along with his muscle function, which had been lost after spending such a long period of time at the hospital.
Both Hunter and Payton ended up getting COVID-19, but Hunter’s case became much worse, becoming life-threatening.
The Beginning: Catching the COVID-19 Virus
In Sept. 2021, Hunter and Payton were preparing to get their COVID-19 vaccines so they could safely attend a concert. Days before their scheduled appointments, Payton tested positive for the virus, which she says may have resulted from exposure at her job as a pre-K teacher. A few days later, Hunter, who works for Clearcreek Township’s Parks and Roads Department, started to not feel well, too.
Hunter went and saw his doctor to see if he potentially had COVID-19, himself. He tested negative, but his doctor urged him to take any necessary precautions to stay safe, as he could always test positive later on once symptoms set in.
Payton experienced mild symptoms and quickly recovered, but Hunter struggled with a high fever and bad cough. He went to his local emergency room and tested positive. Doctors gave him IV fluids for dehydration. He didn’t have pneumonia initially, so he was treated just for COVID-19, was given medication and went home soon after.
Bad to Worse: Developing COVID-19 Pneumonia
As the days went on, Hunter’s condition did not improve—his cough worsened, and he struggled to sleep. Following a trip to a local urgent care facility, Hunter received a pulse oximeter so he could monitor his oxygen levels, which continued to drop.
“I was terrified, but I wanted to try to assure everyone that things would be OK,” Hunter said.
He was finally diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia, a serious complication that impacts the lungs and causes breathing issues, on Oct. 6, 2021. Pneumonia can result following COVID-19 symptoms.
“It's unclear why some people seem to get such severe symptoms after COVID-19 infection while others remain asymptomatic,” explained Joseph Sun, MD, UC Health anesthesiologist, critical care intensivist and assistant professor of clinical at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “It certainly is atypical for someone as young as Hunter to have become so sick, but it does happen. Almost all of the patients we see for ECMO have been unvaccinated.”
Hunter spent 11 days at a community hospital near Dayton, only to have his condition worsen even further. His lung collapsed, causing him to need dual chest tubes. He went onto a ventilator soon after, and was then moved to the intensive care unit for additional one-on-one care.