After nearly six weeks fighting COVID-19 at AdventHealth Fish Memorial, local flight attendant returns to the skies

Robert Deprins COVID patient Wide shot

Central Florida North, ORANGE CITY, Fla., June 24, 2020 – On March 31, Robert Deprins, 64, a healthy, active, flight attendant for more than 20 years, came to the ER at AdventHealth Fish Memorial in Orange City with a fever, loss of appetite and respiratory issues, including a dry, non-productive cough. In the ER, the DeBary resident tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to the hospital’s designated COVID-19 unit.

“I didn't realize it at the time, but if I had waited one or two more days, it would have been too late for me,” he said.

As with many COVID-19 patients, Deprins health declined rapidly and he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and intubated for more than three weeks.

“God gave me another chance,” Deprins said. “I've never been sick, I’ve never been in the hospital my whole life, but they saved my life.”

Spending nearly six weeks fighting COVID-19 at AdventHealth Fish Memorial, the team truly bonded with Deprins – praying with him nightly and celebrating his 64th birthday with his favorite black forest cake.

Deprins’ family lives abroad in Belgium and he doesn’t have any family in the U.S. The team at AdventHealth Fish Memorial emailed his family in Belgium regularly and spoke with his sister and mother via phone often, providing them with updates on his health.

When he was able to get off the ventilator, he was very weak and had lost a lot of muscle mass. He couldn’t walk by himself, but he was very driven, motivated and determined to walk again and return to his work as a flight attendant.

“To go from an active person – I’m not overweight, I don’t drink or smoke – but in a matter of a few weeks, to not even be able to open a can ginger ale, to not able to walk, this virus is very serious,” he said.

While recovering in the hospital, the physical therapy team worked with him daily to help him regain his strength, and about a week before he was discharged, he was able to walk on his own.

On May 9, he was able to leave AdventHealth Fish Memorial and was strong enough to drive himself home. To celebrate his return home, one of the nurse’s daughters created an “airline ticket” as a discharging boarding pass and the staff lined the hallways to cheer him on.

“I came to the hospital unprepared, unaware that I would being stay for so long,” he said. “I didn’t pack a bag, I didn’t have a cellphone charger or shaving kit.”

The team at AdventHealth Fish Memorial made special arrangements to ensure he had a smooth transition back home. The hospital’s kitchen team cooked and packaged meals for him and the hospital send someone home with him to help him get settled.

They prepped his home, cleaned out his fridge, and went grocery shopping for him. AdventHealth Home Health nurses, as well as physical and occupational therapists, continued providing care in his home.

He is now negative for COVID-19 and on May 30, he officially returned to work as a flight attendant.