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Torrance fire engineer Rickey Cradle

“The fact that they are driven by empathy in how they practice their skill and craft is critical. They literally became family for us because we couldn’t be by his bedside.”

— Jenny Cadle

Beating COVID and the Odds

Torrance Fire Engineer Rickey Cradle Survives Harrowing Battle with COVID-19

Working in emergency services involves a certain tolerance of the risks that accompany the job. But when Torrance fire engineer Rickey Cradle and his wife, Jenny, a fire communications supervisor, were both diagnosed with COVID-19, they faced a fight neither had anticipated.

The Cradles have always been on the go, between their demanding careers, their five kids and their work as breeders of champion Rhodesian Ridgeback show dogs. Rickey, a former Major League Baseball player, was in excellent health. It was a surprise, when, after exposure to coronavirus on the job, Rickey began showing symptoms of COVID-19. Days later, Jenny began to feel sick, too.

The couple quarantined at home, but Rickey soon developed a severe cough and shortness of breath. On the advice of Dr. Marc Cohen, medical director for Torrance Fire and emergency physician at Providence, Rickey was rushed to the hospital. At Jenny’s insistence, he was taken to Providence St. Joseph Hospital.

“I said, ‘I love you. Stay strong,’” remembers Jenny. “He was just fighting to breathe.” Twice before he was intubated, Jenny and the children were given the opportunity to tell Rickey goodbye, in case he did not survive.

It soon became clear that Rickey would need a plasma donor — and the effort was successful. But over the next several days, Rickey encountered one extraordinary medical challenge after another. Jenny recalls some difficult conversations with Dr. Desmond Sjauwfoekloy, who explained that Rickey needed to make a turn soon, or he would be too sick to survive.

Slowly, he began to make that turn. Doctors even discussed the possibility of removing him from the ventilator.

But before they could, Rickey experienced a devastating setback: an acute brain bleed, resulting in a massive hematoma of the right frontal lobe. Doctors performed an emergency surgery to stop the bleed and remove the hematoma. However, his intracranial pressure grew so severe, he required an emergency craniotomy.

Rickey would have a total of five brain surgeries. More than once, his heart stopped. He also developed dangerous blood clots in his legs. As a result of lost circulation, all the toes on his right foot had to be amputated. But, with fierce love from his family and unflagging care from his team at Providence St. Joseph Hospital, Rickey survived.

Rickey came out of his coma and was taken off the ventilator on June 27th — 88 days since contracting COVID-19, 69 days on a ventilator and 80 days since he was admitted to the hospital.

On the day he was moved to a long-term acute care facility, Providence St. Joseph Hospital staff and caregivers celebrated his triumph.

“He had nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists from the ER that came over to see him because they heard he had survived,” says Jenny.

Rickey has since graduated to a rehabilitation facility, and while his prognosis is very good, Jenny concedes that a full recovery will take some time. Rickey still struggles with some cognitive function and short-term memory loss.

Looking back, Jenny is deeply grateful for the compassion of the many caregivers at Providence St. Joseph Hospital who contributed to her husband’s recovery. “The fact that they are driven by empathy in how they practice their skill and craft is critical,” says Jenny. “They literally became family for us because we couldn’t be by his bedside.”

Jenny pauses, reflecting on the couple’s ordeal. “I look at how much he has been through, and it stuns me that he is even alive right now,” she says, her eyes filling with tears. “He didn’t get there by himself. He got there because people came together at those crucial moments to save his life.”

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Call: 714-347-7900
1010 West La Veta, Suite 300 – Orange, CA 92868
Email: sjofoundation@providence.org

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