Michael Omstead is known in the medical community as Santa. Each year, he dresses up and transforms into the jolly character to bring joy to the patients of local hospitals. This Christmas season, you won’t find Michael – aka Santa – roaming the halls of St. Joe’s Livingston and Brighton delivering holiday cheer. Instead, he’ll be recovering from a serious bout of COVID-19.
In November, when Santa is usually checking his naughty and nice list, Michael began to feel ill during this staycation with wife, Linda. Thinking it was just a cold, Michael powered through.
“Three days later, he woke up and said he felt awful,” Linda said. “It wasn’t just a mild fever and stuffy nose anymore. We went to his doctor’s office and his pulse oxygen was low. We were told to go right to the Emergency Room.”
Michael was admitted to St. Joe’s Livingston and remained on a high percent of oxygen for several days. He tested positive for COVID-19, and Linda’s diagnosis of the same followed soon behind. She quarantined at home at first but eventually joined Michael in the hospital.
Eight hours after Linda was admitted, doctors told her Michael was taking a turn for the worse and would be going on a ventilator. For days, his temperature fluctuated between 104 and 105 and his heart rate remained high.
“I thought I was going to lose him that week,” Linda said.
Eventually, 17 days later, after Linda had been discharged from the hospital, Michael was weaned from the ventilator.
“I was recovering at my daughter’s house when I received a video call from one of Michael’s doctors,” Linda said. “I knew that meant one of two things – it was the end or things we’re looking up. The doctor had a surprise. There was Michael; off the vent and awake.”
Michael and Linda credit St. Joe’s Livingston angels for saving their lives.
“It was the staff and prayers that got us through this,” Linda said. “The attention and quality of care we received was just incredible. I can’t say thank you enough.”
When Michael was discharged a few days later to a rehab facility, St. Joe’s Livingston staff surprised Michael and Linda by lining the halls to cheer them on.
“It was a complete surprise,” Linda said. “To see all of Michael’s caregivers and hospital friends from all departments there, I was at a loss for words.”
Michael, on the other hand, had a few words for everyone who cheered him on – “Santa will be back next year.”