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Partner Of Ingham Commissioner Recovering From COVID-19

Jim Boucher in ICU photo
Courtesy photo
Jim Boucher took this selfie in the Sparrow Hospital ICU on March 31.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit home for Ingham County Commissioner Carol Koenig in recent weeks. Her partner came home from the hospital this week after a battle that landed him in intensive care. WKAR's Scott Pohl reports.

Carol Koenig describes Jim Boucher as her POSSLQ (person of opposite sex sharing living quarters) for about 40 years. They have a son, Nick.

Their story begins on March 18th, when Boucher came down with what Koenig describes as a heavy-duty fever, a strong headache, and nausea, leading them to think he had the flu.

Jim Boucher photo
Credit Courtesy photo
Jim Boucher, in a vacation photo taken on Antigua March 3. He fell ill with what turned out to be COVID-19 on March 18.

When they called Boucher’s doctor, Michigan didn’t yet have many COVID-19 cases, and it seemed unlikely in this case. He didn’t have the cough associated with the disease. The advice at the time was to wait it out.

Still, they had concerns. Bouche will turn 60 this year, and he’d been struggling with a case of bronchitis that hadn’t been fully resolved since January.

Koenig finally became alarmed when all Boucher wanted to do was sleep. “It was kind of becoming difficult to get him to talk about his symptoms or how he was feeling," Koenig explains, "because he just wanted to curl up in a ball.”

A trip to urgent care led to negative influenza A and B tests. His oxygen levels were low, and they suggested going to the hospital. Koenig says that was the best advice they could have gotten, continuing that "in this particular instance, in a matter of 24 hours, he went from being kind of groggy and sick, to being critical.”

Boucher was admitted to Sparrow Hospital. Before long, Koenig says his condition took a turn for the worse, "and by the next day, he had really started to crash. He went from two liters of oxygen to four, to six, to eight, to 15, all in a matter of eight hours.”

A CT scan showed what’s known as ground glass diffused pneumonia in both of Boucher’s lungs. That’s a COVID-19 marker, and doctors immediately started treating him as a COVID patient in intensive care.

Boucher’s condition continued to deteriorate to the point where Koenig was notified that he might have to be intubated. Koenig adds that "at that point I said ‘he’s got a 15 year old son. Can Nick and I come basically to say goodbye to him? Can we come down and tell him that we love him and support him?’ and they said absolutely not.”

After a sleepless night, Koenig feared the worst when her phone rang the next morning. Instead, it was good news. “The nurse was chipper! She said ‘hey, he had a really good night!’ and I said ‘he did?’" Koenig goes on to say "I was surprised, and she said ‘absolutely, he really improved.’ She said ‘he actually ate some breakfast this morning, we have a lot of hope,’ and so that gave us a lot of hope.”

Boucher continued to slowly improve and was discharged on Tuesday. Home now with an oxygen concentrator, Boucher describes his low point. In his words, "the most scary moment was in ICU, when the doctor said ‘I’m calling the anesthesiologist, we’re going to put you out and intubate you.’ Luckily, in the next couple of hours, my numbers increased well enough that I didn’t have to be intubated.”

Koenig and son Nick have shown no signs of Coronavirus infection, and at this point have not been tested.

Boucher remains on the road to recovery, describing his condition as “much better than I was. They finally took the truck off my chest. It feels like having a truck parked on your chest when you’re in the throes of this. No matter how hard you try to breathe, you just can’t.”

Boucher is still short of breath, though, and he remains on oxygen. Perhaps the biggest help of all is what he describes as the best night’s sleep he’s had in weeks, at home, in his own bed.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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