New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Once near death, man becomes beacon for shot
WALLINGFORD — Glenn Merritt III, 25, had a dread of getting COVID-19 and having to be intubated, so he planned to get the vaccine as soon as his age group became eligible in early April.
But less than two weeks before that magic date, Merritt, better known as “G” was hospitalized with the virus and his worst fear came true — he had to be intubated, suffered numerous major organ complications and his parents were told at one point he likely had three days to live.
Six months later, Merritt is still in rehabilitation at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare — on dialysis three
days a week (a side effect of his COVID) — but he’s finding his usual positivity in the situation: Because of him, so many relatives in his large extended family — including down South — saw his situation and decided to get the vaccine, stronghold skeptics among them.
“I was used as an example in my family for taking COVID seriously,” he said, noting his wide circle from here to down South — his mom, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even his pastor, got vaccinated after hearing his story.
“I think everyone should be vaccinated. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through,” Merritt said. “A lot of people my age dismiss it. They take COVID seriously part time instead of all the time.”
Merritt, who will move in with his father in New Haven when released at the end of October, has a special quality about him that he has been held dear by healthcare workers along the way at Middlesex Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and now Gaylord Specialty Healthcare.
At St. Francis, his attending physician called him “King of the Hospital,” and at Gaylord, staff members burst out crying recently during a family planning event when they thought he was leaving soon.
“His circle is big,” said his uncle, Carlton Staggers, former Ward 30 New Haven alderman. “He’s a good kid, a really good kid.”
Staggers said he and his five adult children got the vaccine in response to Merritt’s case.
His dad, Glenn “Rick” Merritt Jr., said of his only son that he’s been popular among all the hospitals’ staff because, “He’s very respectful and treats everyone with kindness and care.”
“He has a good attitude and his attitude is helping him to heal,” the older Merritt said.
But at one point, it didn’t look like the younger Merritt’s good attitude was going to be enough to get him through COVID-19.
Hi father and his mom, Linette “Rose” Merritt, who are divorced, said Sunday, May 9, was the darkest day of their lives as they were told their son wasn’t responding to the antibiotics and might only live until Wednesday.
Given the prognosis, medical staff asked dad if he wanted to just keep the younger Merritt comfortable and discontinue treatment.
“I said we’re going to pray and continue treatment,” the elder Glenn Merritt said.
The tears were flowing, but the dad returned to New Haven and rallied his friends, relatives in prayer. Those prayers went out from up and down the East Coast and from east to west, his parents said.
Staggers recalls all their tears and their New Haven prayer circle that day.
“We never all prayed together as much as we did this time,” Staggers said. “Suddenly the hospital said, ‘I don’t know what you did, but his vitals changed.”’
Linette Merritt said her son was allowed two visitors that Sunday and instead of going herself, sent her mom to pray with her ex-husband because her mom’s a pastor “and her faith is stronger than mine,” Linette Merritt said.
She went to see her son the next day and he was beginning to respond to the medication — a turn the family largely attributes to all the prayer.
“I could have fell out there knowing my son could probably die that week but the tide was coming back,” she said.
“It’s just a miracle. Every day when I wake up I cry — it’s not a bad cry,” she said.
A couple of days later, the great news came as the medical personnel told dad, “Your son is miraculously recovering,” the elder Glenn Merritt said.
“It was the biggest relief in the world,” he said.
The younger Glenn Merritt developed cold symptoms, including a cough about a week before his dad would ultimately bring him to the hospital March 28.
The younger Glenn Merritt,
who says he was planning to get the vaccine when he became eligible April 5, thought he had a common cold, but dad insisted on the hospital as he didn’t like the way his son’s breathing sounded over the phone.
The elder Glenn Merritt – who had been vaccinated way back in January, drove from New Haven to his son’s place in New Britain, figuring he would drive him to Yale New Haven Hospital, as the elder Merritt works there as a shipping/receiving supervisor.
But his son’s breathing was so shallow that the elder Glenn Merritt didn’t think they would make it back to New Haven, so he Googled the nearest hospital, despite not being too tech savvy — and it was Middlesex. Hospital.
An hour later, Glenn Merritt was told he had COVID-19.
“I felt really scared after that,” he said.
Two days later, he learned he was going to be intubated there it was — his worst fear — that he had shared with his mom not long before.
“I panicked and called everybody” he said.
Linette Merritt recalls the previous conversation with her son.
“The week before he went to the hospital we were both talking about the virus and how deathly scared we were about it. We were talking about worse scenarios and how people on ventilators
don’t usually make it out. He was definitely going for the vaccine because he was so scared of a ventilator,” she said.
The younger Glenn Merritt’s sickness has been a six-month nightmare of complications, although he’s making great progress in rehabilitation and is expected to be released at the end of October.
He was kept in a medically induced coma for 31⁄2 months, dad said, and suffered complications of a blood clot, his heart stopping, internal bleeding, a lung so bad they thought he would need a transplant, and impairment of his kidneys, which has required dialysis. A kidney transplant may be in his future, the parents say.
“I couldn’t move — I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk,” the younger Glenn Merritt said of when he awoke. “Everyone tells me I’m lucky.”
He weighed 460 when it all started and now weighs 319, he said.
Glenn Merritt said he’s thrilled to have lost a lot of weight through the ordeal and says he’ll work to lose more.
“Since I was able to drop all that weight, I don’t want to put it on again,” he said.
He was transferred for rehabilitation to Gaylord July 22, where as usual, he’s extraordinarily popular among staff and other patients.
Two of his therapists in physical therapy and occupational therapy, who often work together with him, said Glenn Merritt has made huge progress — he can get himself out of bed, walk with the help of a walker, feed himself, dress and more basic daily living skills that he was unable to do after the illness. When he arrived, Glenn Merritt couldn’t even hold up his head on his own.
“He’s a pleasure to work with — he’s so polite and humble,” said Gaylord physical therapist Jackie Skirkanich. He also gets a lot of other patients rooting him on when he walks past. “He brings good morale to all the patients.”
She said when his dad came for a family training session in anticipation of his release — everyone cried — the family, the staff.
Occupational therapist Maddie Murgatroyd said patient Glenn Merritt has been “motivated since day one,” and never misses a session unless it’s out of his control, despite feeling tired or ill some days.
Glenn Merritt said he’s happy he’s started to climb stairs.
“I’m feeling pretty good now – a whole lot better than I did,” he said. “Gaylord’s been great. When I first got here I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything ever again.”
Glenn Merritt has a long road ahead and even though he can’t live on his own will continue online working on his masters’ degree in criminal justice.
He hopes to become a police officer and earn his way up to detective one day.
“I want to get out of here and get onto working everyday life,” he said.
One of the best things in all of it — besides losing weight and influencing vaccines — the younger Glenn Merritt said, is that he’s become good friends with male nurse from St. Francis, four years his elder.
“He calls me his little brother. He tells me every day that he loves me,” the younger Glenn Merritt said.
Although the young patient said he questioned his faith at some point, it’s now restored because, “they all kept praying and it worked.”
The elder Glenn Merritt said he texted his son every day even though he was in a coma and is thrilled his son’s case by example might have saved lives.
“With him getting COVID a lot of family members who didn’t get it, got vaccinated” the elder Merritt said.
Linette Merritt said she’s “so grateful” no one gave up on her son.
“It has changed our outlook on life about petty things because you never know if you’re going to be here,” she said. “Sometimes these tragedies wake you up.”