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‘Determination and a Fighting Spirit’

A triathlete spent 110 days in the hospital, more than any other Kaiser Permanente COVID-19 patient in Northern California. Pictured, Tom Butts leaving Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center.

Tom Butts, 66, is a marathoner and a triathlete, who just 2 years ago competed in the Hawaii Iron Man race.

But then COVID-19 stopped him in his tracks.

In March, Butts was hospitalized at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center and spent more than 3 months fighting for his life. He was in the Intensive Care Unit for 93 days, 87 of those on a ventilator.

The battle to beat the odds and win his life back from COVID-19 took 110 days. He was recently released from the hospital thanks to the exceptional care provided by his team of doctors, nurses, and staff.

“He had amazing determination and a fighting spirit,” said Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager at Kaiser Permanente San Jose. “Thanks goes to the physicians, nurses, and so many others who worked tirelessly every day and every night to get him to this day.”         

Surviving the Impossible

Just days after he was admitted to the hospital, Butts’ doctors asked his wife to come and say goodbye because they feared he wouldn’t make it. But Butts proved them wrong. He made it through that night.

He survived multiple blood clots, multiple organ failures, near cardiac arrest, and paralysis.

“There were times when we thought we might lose him,” said Divyesh Patel, MD, a Kaiser Permanente San Jose intensive care physician, who was part of Butts’ care team.

“Many of us have cried over him,” said Sukhvinder Nagi, MD, a Kaiser Permanente San Jose intensive care physician who also cared for Butts. “He has had a really rough course.”

Cheers, Applause, and Tears

Butts eventually was well enough to go home and was wheeled out of the hospital on a gurney to a transport ambulance, raising his arms above his head in the kind of victory salute that runners do at the end of their races. There was a big crowd to cheer him on, many carrying signs and applauding the Kaiser Permanente San Jose health care heroes who helped save his life.

“I don’t think he’d be going home today without these nurses and doctors,” said Amanda McDermott, Butts’ daughter. “I can’t say enough for what they’ve done for him and my family, and we are beyond grateful.”

Many of Butts’ doctors and nurses were outside the hospital entrance watching as Butts’ gurney was loaded onto the ambulance for the trip home, some wiping away tears. Although Butts still has a long road ahead of him, his doctors are confident he will make a full recovery.

“He’s a testament to the power of humanity, the power of what we can do when we all come together, and the power of one person’s will,” said Dr. Nagi.


COVID-19San Jose

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. This gives me hope. The belief and the power that he was able to overcome this illness…. Such an inspirational story and I’m glad this article was shared as I resonate a lot with this. Proud to be working for an organization who does powerful things. Thank you to all the medical staff who continue to fight this disease for their patients. Truly a testament of the high quality care that Kaiser Permanente provides.

  2. What wonderful news! I sat in my office and welled up with tears reading Mr. Butts’ remarkable story. So thankful for the joy this brings to his family and to our health care team. Shout out Kaiser Permanente San Jose. I pray that if I’m ever in the same boat as Mr. Butts that you won’t give up on me! Great care, great victory, great teamwork! Keep up the great work!

  3. Tom, thank you for letting us all know your story. We heard bits about a man who was still on the ventilator, but it’s so nice to know just how remarkable you are! It’s inspiring to see that a healthy baseline will carry you through. All the best and continue to be a superstar!! Well done, everyone!

  4. What an awesome story and a testament to our healthcare heroes at San Jose. Mr. Butts is able to go home to his loved ones because of his extraordinary will and the efforts of all the wonderful team members involved in his care.

  5. Great Story! I would also like to commend his wonderful rehabilitation team: Physical, Occupational, and Speech therapy, as well as his Respiratory therapists without whose tireless efforts he would not have been up and moving! Getting these patients home is truly a TEAM effort!!

  6. A true story of hope! Special thanks to the Dietitians who took care of his nutritional needs through out his hospitalization.

  7. This really hit home this morning. So refreshing to get good news and be able to feel good for this man, his family, and the wonderful providers and caregivers who supported him through his illness. Thank you for sharing this success story. Yay, Tom Butts! Here’s hoping he gets to do another Iron Man.

  8. San Jose, there are no better actions to describe the meaning of teamwork. Your compassion, determination and love came together at a turning point for Tom. Truly this meant life or death for him, and you all choose to fight for his life. Tom did his part and doctors, nurses, and staff, you did yours by providing exceptional care. You all made his dream of living a longer life come true. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! God bless!!!

  9. What wonderful news. It brought tears of joy to my eyes. Thank you to everyone involved in help saving this precious life.

  10. Amazing story. A good reminder of why we are here and how each and everyone can make a difference in someone’s life.
    Truly a blessing to be part of this organization.
    Kudos to the healthcare heroes! I am humbled.

  11. Thank you to all the KP doctors and nurses who fight for the patients every day, no matter how tired or scared they feel. You are heroes.

  12. Wow! This was a powerful story.

    Thank you to all the KP staff who did not give up on the fight and staying committed through it all.

  13. This is such a testimony to the expert care given with compassion by the physicians, nurses, all techs, housekeepers, administrators, etc. that are totally committed to saving lives, alleviating pain and celebrating joyous moments. Thank you KP San Jose Team, you are Heroes

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