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‘Life Is More Precious,’ Says COVID-19 Survivor

Donnie Bruce, pictured with wife Zeffie, is the true meaning of the word survivor.

Donnie Bruce is 69, a diabetic, and has prostate cancer. Within a 2-week period in March, Bruce had a heart attack, stent-placement surgery, and was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“It’s nothing less than a miracle that I am still here,” Bruce, a retired data engineer, said. “My doctors and nurses saved my life.”

While on a ski trip in Sun Valley, Idaho, Bruce started having chest pains. When it progressed, his wife Zeffie didn’t hesitate and had him driven to the local hospital. Bruce had had a heart attack and was life-flighted to a Twin Falls hospital to have a coronary angioplasty with stent placement.

Thankful for his recovery, the couple returned home to Hollister, California. But this was just the beginning of what Bruce called “a nightmare.” Days later, he suffered a severe blood sugar drop and passed out. Paramedics arrived and discovered he had a fever.

Bruce was taken to the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center on March 12, where he tested positive for COVID-19. This was when the infection had begun rapidly spreading throughout the country, and Bruce knew very little about it.

“I had no idea what the disease could do to me,” Bruce said. “It’s an attack on the body like nothing else.”

Strengthening His Spirit

From the emergency department Bruce was immediately put into isolation and given nonstop care from his team of doctors and nurses.

Like many COVID-19 patients, Bruce got worse before he got better. Day 6 into his illness he had a high fever, shortness of breath, was weak, and emotionally depressed; in large part because he couldn’t see his wife.

His doctor, Christina Umphrey, MD, recognized his weakened spirit. There were moments she thought he wasn’t going to pull through. “I knew he needed to get his fight back,” she said. “Every day I tried to lift his spirit and let him know he wasn’t alone.”

By finding his inner strength and through the collective knowledge and innovative work of Bruce’s medical team, he recovered.

Although his 2-week stay was unbelievably trying, Bruce said he was never scared. His faith in God and the unwavering trust in his caregivers allowed him to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I am so grateful for them,” Bruce said. “The bravery to come to work every day knowing what this disease could do is amazing.”

Connecting Family in Times of Isolation

Dr. Umphrey called Zeffie every day, sometimes multiple times, to give an update on her husband’s treatment and wellbeing. The nurses facilitated calls between Zeffie and Bruce, and shared words of encouragement.

“I want to say thank you very much,” Zeffie said to the Kaiser Permanente team. “You are god-sends, and I know you did the best you absolutely could.”

For the couple who have been married 38 years and share 4 children, 10 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren, life has forever changed. The calls with their kids are longer and they enjoy each sunny day a bit more.

Bruce said he looks forward to being able to see his friends again and to skiing and taking long walks. But for now, he is simply enjoying every minute.

“I don’t take for granted what I once did,” Bruce said. “I am more aware of how precious life is.”

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coronavirusCOVID-19San Jose
This Post Has 13 Comments
  1. Thank you for sharing Donnie’s story. The nurses, physicians, and the entire San Jose care team is amazing. KP San Jose is where I work and every day I bear witness to the daily compassion, dedication, and expert care given to each patient. We pray for an immunization to stop the pain, suffering, and death. Our team is here to help, should you require hospitalization. I trust each and every staff member and physician.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story with all of us. There is so much death with this disease it REALLY lifted my spirits to hear Zeffie and your recovery! True inspiration to so many.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this story. Nice to hear how a sweet man and his wife were helped through, such a scary health scare so soon after another health scare.

  4. What an amazing testament of teamwork, strength, and unwavering faith! When super meets natural, it becomes supernatural, and that’s exactly what Bruce is walking in. A supernatural healing! Blessings and continued prayers for complete healing. Thank you to the amazing team that took great care of him!!

    This is who Kaiser Permanente is at the core. Caring. Compassionate. Considerate.

  5. Wow… how awesomely amazing. I am a new Kaiser employee. I started in January as a HHA (Home Health Aide) at the Martinez, CA, site for hospice before the shelter in place started. And I have been so proud to be a Kaiser employee. But after reading this story I am way beyond proud. I am “Ecstatic” to be a part of an organization that is truly amazing and does amazing things for the people. My hat off to all of you, my people👍👍👊🏽👊🏽 Love you❤️

    1. I’m am a Kaiser employee. This is such great news to here that Kaiser took good care of you. This is what you called a care moment, I’m so glad you are doing well, and you kept the faith. When you believe and keep the faith in God, it will work our in your favor. Now you can enjoy your family and be happy all you can be together again…Blessing and more Blessing:)

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