A young patient offers inspiration beyond his years

Nick Hunter, a 24-year old recent college graduate, is accustomed to making extraordinary recoveries – and motivating our caregivers along the way.

Hunter lives with cystic fibrosis (CF) and by the time he was 16, had about 35% lung function. In 2016, Hunter underwent a life-saving lung transplant at Cleveland Clinic main campus. Since then, Hunter’s care team, led by Marie Budev, MD, watched him thrive. Dr. Budev called his recovery “inspiring,” and noted his recent accomplishments, including graduating from Kent State University, completing an internship in Washington, DC, and starting his career as a journalist.

Facing a new challenge

In late March, Hunter tested positive for COVID-19 and when his symptoms escalated, he was admitted to Cleveland Clinic Akron General. He quickly went into respiratory failure and required a ventilator in the ICU.

While his entire experience still feels like a blur, one thing that stands out to Hunter is the Akron General ICU team for going “above and beyond what they had to do.” Hunter’s family struggled being apart from him, but nurses responded with compassion. Hunter recalls nurses setting up a FaceTime call so his mom could talk to him and send her love.

Caring for a young patient with a history of respiratory conditions

Linzi Letnz, RN, was part of the Akron General ICU nursing team who cared for Hunter. The team felt equipped to treat his Hunter’s needs, even considering his unique patient history.

A respiratory specialist briefed the team on special considerations for patients with CF and lung transplants, including the fact that because Hunter had a lung transplant, he was a better candidate for intubation. The nursing team also worked closely with Pharmacy to ensure Hunter’s medicines were administered properly and did not react with his other medications.

Lentz agreed “one of the hardest things on all of us” is families and patients being separated due to visitation restrictions. But she and the team made a dedicated effort to call or FaceTime Hunter’s family twice a day, and even more if needed.

A rapid recovery

After self-extubating from the ventilator, Hunter quickly got better and stronger. Dr. Budev was “amazed at his recovery, but he has youth on his side and received excellent care in the ICU.”

Hunter expressed gratitude for having the energy to rebound so fast. But he says his support system – of family, friends and caregivers – is his greatest source of strength. “I wouldn’t be in the situation I am in without the people around me who have sacrificed so much for me to make sure that I stay safe, I stay healthy,” Hunter said. “They give me motivation to really push through things.”

Our caregivers found just as much inspiration in Hunter. Lentz recalls: “As a unit, we were all excited and proud to see him get out and get better. It was a huge morale booster.”

Read more about Hunter and share his story.