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What It’s Like When Your Loved One Gets Taken Off Of A Ventilator, Leaves The ICU And Beats Back COVID-19

When last you heard, Major Paul "Tucker" Jancsy was in critical condition at Saratoga Hospital on a ventilator. Let's just say things have changed for the better.

Major Paul "Tucker" Janscy and his wife, Sara, pose next to a Delta airplane. (Sara Jancsy)

This past Monday (April 13) was an emotionally charged day for me as both a Saratogian and journalist. It marked the release date of my first issue of Saratoga Living magazine since being promoted to Editorial Director. I’d spent a lot of time bellyaching about what that meant and what people would think of the cover story I’d written. But on top of all of that was the fact that I’d reported an unrelated story on April 9 that hadn’t sat too well with me. In fact, it had sent me spiraling a bit; I’ve written about some pretty heavy subjects in my career, but this one affected me to my core and stayed with me long after I hit “publish.”

I’d learned on the 12th that a classmate of mine from Saratoga Springs High School, Paul “Tucker” Jancsy, now a major in the New York Air National Guard and pilot for Delta Airlines, had been admitted to Saratoga Hospital with the COVID-19 virus, had been put on a ventilator and was fighting for his life in the ICU. I immediately reported a story about the GoFundMe page that had been launched to support Paul and his wife, Sara. It was the last story I’d published that evening, but when I woke up the following morning, it was still with me. So, I decided that I wanted to reach out to Sara and see if she’d be open to telling her side of the story via saratogaliving.com’s “What It’s Like” series, which we’ve been running since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area. Amazingly, she agreed, and I published the second story.

I can only assume that people were as affected by Paul and Sara’s story as I was, because it immediately went viral and hasn’t slowed down since (it’s quickly become one of our most read stories in the site’s history). And ever since it published, I’ve had Paul and his wife in my thoughts. When I get up in the morning to start my day, when I’m eating breakfast and when I sit down to write and edit. Journalists aren’t normally supposed to “feel”; at least in my area of expertise (general interest), we’re just supposed to do our jobs, report the news and shut up. But I felt compelled, after writing that second story, to donate to Paul and Sara’s fund. And I did.

So, you can only imagine my excitement Monday afternoon, when I received an update from Paul’s GoFundMe page saying that he’d been taken off of the ventilator. I immediately posted on my Facebook page that it had been the best news I’d heard all day. And it had been.

I wanted to give everyone who read that story a reason to smile today. I talked with Sara the morning of April 15, and she shared with me some incredible news. Here’s Sara Jancsy in her own words.

***

Sara started off our conversation by telling me that Paul was up and talking and that she’d read him my story.

So, Paul’s up and talking. I take it they extubated him?
Correct. Coming off of the ventilator, he was able to speak immediately, which was shocking to me, because I know [that some] people that have been on it for 10-17 days [have come] out unable to speak for about three days with speech therapy. So, he came out strong.

That is amazing. Can you give me an idea of what your day was like when you found out that Paul had been taken off of the ventilator? Are you actually going to the hospital to visit, or are you talking with him via FaceTime?
Everything’s been remote; no one’s allowed in the hospital; it’s on lockdown. They didn’t overpromise and underdeliver; they led it with, we’re going to reduce his sedation and we’re going to go from there. The next phone call I got was, we took the ventilator off, and he’s recovering and well, and he’s talking. So, I would say elated with a sense of pride and thankfulness and joy and tears—there were so many emotions.

I assume the news spread pretty quickly throughout your family and friends.
Quickly, yeah. We’ve been trying to protect our privacy, but at the same time, sharing our story to give people a sense of positivity around COVID. We kept it close to tight family and then we released something, as you saw, publicly. Because you know how quick things go viral.

What is the prognosis at the moment? He’s off the ventilator, he’s talking. Is he completely out of the weeds?
You [picked] a perfect day for this conversation. You’re one of the first people to know outside of the family. I just got off the phone with the hospital. He’s recovering and quote-unquote “graduated from the ICU” this morning. So, he’s stable at Saratoga Hospital, recovering. They moved him to the COVID floor but not in critical condition anymore, which is amazing.

What was the first conversation you had with Paul like?
He was coming out of sedation for about two-plus days, so [he was] just in and out of it. Immediately, he knew who I was, who his family was [and] he knew he was in Saratoga Hospital. But he was ready to come home, he said. We were all bawling.

I’m choking up right now. Obviously, he must know, at this point, that life is completely different now than it was when he first entered the hospital. I assume you guys are going to just be social isolating for the foreseeable future.
Yes, we are. They didn’t give us a timeframe for recovery, so we’re in the beginning stages. [He was] moved to a med-floor in the hospital, and they’re taking it day by day. Hopefully, within three days, we’ll have a better idea of a care plan to transition [to]. But, at this time, it’s unknown. But it’s a positive direction.

Can you tell me a little bit about the doctors and nurses that have cared for Paul? How has the staff been at Saratoga Hospital?
They’ve been amazing. Dr. [Numan] Rashid, MD, and Dr. [Hung Dinh] Nguyen, MD, were at the forefront of his care. So many nurses, between the day shift, the night shift. They’ve been in close communication [with us], multiple times a day. They’ve taken the time to really take a breath and understand our perspective—not being able to be there—but giving us all the answers that we’ve asked [for] and reassurance in his condition.

Obviously, this is a completely crazy set of emotions to have over the last several weeks. Do you feel like you’ve learned anything about yourself or Paul from this?
I think it widened our perspective on life. We’ve always been thankful people, but I think [we’re] even more grateful [now]. And then you think about, Wow, we really need to spend more time with our family and make it a point to see our friends. Just being overall grateful. Even more so.

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Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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