Wife of Wilton’s First Coronavirus Patient: He Was as Severe as They Come and Made It Through

Coming forward and shedding anonymity, Elizabeth Tillett says her husband Chris is on the road to recovery–albeit a very long one. She adds, "We can't wait to have our rock back home."

Chris and Elizabeth Tillett with their infant twins, a few months before he was the first patient in CT diagnosed as COVID-19 positive. He has since recovered and returned home.

On Sunday, March 8, Wilton heard the news–Connecticut’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient was a town resident. What was just two weeks ago seems so much longer, given the progression the pandemic has had around the globe. But for Patient 1 and his family, their experience has been harrowing, as the man fought for his life in the ICU at Danbury Hospital, while his wife was quarantined at home, alone for two weeks with five-month old twin boys.

Wilton sprang into action, donating toward a GoFundMe campaign for the family that has raised over $100,000, plus offering support and help in any way the family needed. Overwhelmed at first, the patient’s wife had chosen to stay anonymous. But now, with her husband turning a corner and breathing on his own, getting incrementally better each day, she has decided to reveal their names, and offer an update on his progress.

Elizabeth Tillett gave GOOD Morning Wilton permission to print her account, telling us she wants Wilton to know what happened over the last two weeks for her husband, Chris Tillett:  “Absolutely. So people know he was as severe as they come and made it through.”

Danbury Hospital, in Danbury Connecticut, saved my husband’s life.

From the minute we entered the ER doors he and I were masked and moved to a negative pressure room. I stayed with my husband until it was time to leave due to the nature of his highly probable diagnosis. I exited the ER through an external door directly from the PPE room of the negative pressure room to the outside.

He was moved to a negative pressure room on the Step Down Unit the following morning. He had a registered nurse named Sara Hayes on that unit the first day that made Chris feel so safe and cared for.

By that night his COVID-19 swab came back as positive and new treatment plans were put in place.

By the next morning his clinical presentation had declined. His last text to me was the name of his registered nurse:  Mary Kate. He wanted me to know who his care provider was and assured me he was in good hands and she could answer any questions. He was then intubated and transferred to ICU.

Once in the ICU he was placed in the care of Dr. Ballerino, Dr. Mendez, [and] Dr. Chronakos, as primary ICU Intensivists, as well as numerous other on call ICU Intensivists. He was also managed by Dr. Nee the Infectious Disease Specialist. They all assured me they were confident in their ability to treat Acute Respiratory Distress (ARDS) and pneumonia, and that they would be proactive as well as evidence based in deciding his care plan. They worked tirelessly, overtime, scouring the world over to find the most current clinical data on treatment options and management of severe COVID-19. They were willing to entertain anything that held promise, including but not limited to clinical trial medications, off label medications, the benefits of prone positioning, intravenous vitamin C administration, and lobbied for release of drugs from research based pharmaceutical companies on a compassionate care basis.

The care team held multidisciplinary meetings frequently and were in contact with the Connecticut Department of Health, the CDC, WHO, Gilead Sciences Biopharmaceutical Company, and more. They involved me every step of the way. Being a Registered Nurse BSN myself, this was really important to me that I could advocate and contribute my hopes and findings for my husband’s treatment as well as have regular communication regarding his disease course. I needed to know we were trying everything feasible while also using clinically sound judgement. Their communication and organizational skills were impeccable in doing the above.

The social worker, Andrea, called me nearly everyday to check on me, the babies, and offered to coordinate anything I needed to endure managing my husband’s care while quarantined home alone with two small infants. The best gift? When I expressed to her I just needed to see my husband’s face and room so I could picture his situation from home. She immediately walked to the nursing station and initiated plans with the charge nurse (I can’t remember her name right now–but what a comforting person) to FaceTime with Chris.

Maria, the Clinical Research Nurse Coordinator happens to be our babysitter Sarah’s mother, and she was warm, intelligent, efficient, and organized in advocating for my husband’s investigational drug opportunities.

Dawn Martin, the Chief Nursing Officer, coordinated playing Chris’ favorite music in the room each day, before I even requested it!

Every nurse that suited up and entered my husband’s room is a selfless hero in my book and I am forever indebted. Kelsey, Mike, Kaitlyn, Britney… and more. Thank you for going to work and accepting your patient assignment.

Every care provider including environmental service employees, food service employees, laboratory employees, the case manager, etc. is a hero to me and my family. Everybody who has a clinical presentation of COVID-19 like my husband can hopefully have comfort that there is a treatment regimen that worked before them now.

Me and my babies are forever indebted to Danbury Hospital for keeping our family, our tribe, intact despite virulence, fear and unknowns of this virus.

Friends (our faith community, Dominique Brown who organized a meal train, Jessie Katz and her faith community, Shelley and Ira Joe Fisher, and more); family (Dr. Molly Mathews, my aunt, Sarabeth VanVelzor RN, my aunt, my Dad, my brother and sister in law who were ready to step in and care for the babies at any time, Ashley Peate my husband’s cousin, and more); the Wilton, CT community (Heather Borden Herve, Evelyn Drew, Ginna Yerall); the Ridgefield, CT community; our worldwide faith community; our babysitter Emily; our nanny Kaitlyn; the Exabeam community, and the global cybersecurity and information security community who all showed our family immeasurable love and support that was priceless, and we are forever indebted.

My husband has a long road of rehab ahead of him to work on cognitive difficulties, muscle atrophy, weakness, speech challenges, and decreased lung capacity, to name a few. But he is a Tillett, a fighter, and a lovable teddy bear with two sweet boys and me to come home to–we can’t wait to have our rock back home. I can’t wait for his bear hugs and witty commentary, the boys can’t wait to get to lay on their Dad’s chest at bedtime, and our pups Ellie and Pyper can’t wait for their alpha, the leader of the Tillett Tribe, to be back in his arm chair.

We love you.

#flattenthecurve
#donatePPE
#givegivegive
#supportsupportsupport
#globalcitizens

3 COMMENTS

  1. We’ve been praying for your recovery from the time that we first heard the news. We saw you and your beautiful family on “Today” and you look fantastic, just like the Chris I knew 20 years ago in Maitland.

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