For Rick Banks, the illness came on suddenly and without warning. He had played Santa Claus for the Lovell Downtown Mingle on Saturday, Nov. 18, and the next week drove his family to a Thanksgiving gathering in Gillette, then back again on Saturday, Nov. 25.
Then it struck.
“It was so weird. It was so fast,” said daughter Megan Rohrer. “He had been over the mountain to Gillette for Thanksgiving, and he drove home the day before he went into the hospital. On the 26th he started acting really crazy.
“My mom (Julie) called me that morning and said, ‘Your dad is acting really weird. You need to come over here and help me.’”
Rohrer drove immediately to her parents’ house and found her father in a state of delirium.
“He was just out of it,” she said. “I found him on the couch and he was as white as a sheet. He could recognize me and could say my name, but he couldn’t quite put a name to my mom’s face. We were going to try to walk him to my Jeep, but he couldn’t walk so we called the ambulance.”
Mother and daughter wheeled Rick to the front door of the home in an office chair, and EMTs met them at the door. They rushed him to North Big Horn Hospital where doctors found his blood pressure to be “scary low” and having a fever of 104.8, Rohrer said. Suspecting sepsis, she said, doctors ordered for him to be flown to the Billings Clinic “right away.”
Rohrer said doctors in Billings told the family that his illness likely started as parainfluenza, which she said is the same thing as croup in kids. He had had a cough for a “couple of days” but nothing seemingly serious, she said.
Doctors also diagnosed influenza caused pneumonia and complete kidney failure.
“This all happened the night of the 26th and on the 27th,” Rohrer said. “It came on so fast, incredibly fast. He went to the ER, then ICU.
“They started dialysis, and he was on it for a couple of weeks, but he almost died the night of the 27th. We had started to drive back to Lovell and made it to Laurel. They called all of us back.”
Banks gradually improved, moving from ICU to a regular floor room after two weeks. He returned to Lovell on Dec. 29 and was “just fine” for four days, undergoing physical and occupational therapy at North Big Horn Hospital Clinic. But then he took a turn for the worse.
“He was acting just fine on January 2, but on January 3 his oxygen dropped to 65 or 70 and he had a fever,” Rohrer said. “They decided to get really aggressive that day, Wednesday, and took all sorts of scans and x-rays and blood work. They ended up finding an empyema on his lower right lung – like an abscess or
infection pocket on the outside of his lung.
“Ken (Ferbrache) decided to send him back to Billings that night.”
Doctors in Billings elected to perform laparoscopic surgery to remove the empyema, Rohrer said, but it was too large, so they ended up removing the lower right lobe of his lung on Friday, Jan. 5.
He remained in ICU until early last week, when he was moved to a cardiac floor to monitor his heart, which Rohrer said had been racing, and because the floor had drain tube facilities. The family had hoped that he would be able to return to Lovell on Tuesday (Jan. 16), but now it looks like he will return Friday or Monday, she said, noting that the extra few days may allow him to be transported by ambulance, after which he will remain in the hospital in Lovell for another week or two.
Future and fundraiser
Banks works for GK Construction as a truck driver and heavy equipment operator and is currently protected by the Family Medical Leave Act with his family stepping in to pay his portion of his health insurance premiums. But it is uncertain whether he will be able to return to work, and the FMLA runs out in early March, Rohrer said. The family has applied for disability in case he can no longer work, but there will be many more medical bills to pay.
A fundraiser is scheduled for this Friday, Jan. 19, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Big Horn Federal Hospitality Room where Cindy Allred will be selling her Opulenza Designs jewelry, with all proceeds going to the Banks family. There will also be a silent auction and bake sale. Jewelry can also be purchased online at www.opulenzadesigns.com/cindyallred. Choose Rick Banks as the hostess at checkout.
Rohrer said there is also a Caring Account on her Facebook page and her sister-in-law Rachel Banks’ Facebook page. A benefit account has been established at the Bank of Lovell, as well.
“We’re waiting to see what the next step is,” Rohrer said. “Today (Tuesday) was Day 52 in the hospital for him.”
By David Peck