At 79, Sioux Falls barber, Jim Dresch, known as “Clipper Jim,” is one of the oldest survivors of cystic fibrosis. The average life span for people with CF is about 44-years-old. Clipper Jim has not only well surpassed that, but he has now also survived COVID-19.
This barbershop at the corner of Western Avenue and 41st Street has been a Sioux Falls staple for 54 years. So has its proprietor, Clipper Jim Dresch. Over the years, KELOLAND News has followed Clipper Jim’s story of living with cystic fibrosis and diabetes, as well as surviving colon cancer.
Now at 79, he’s beaten the odds one more time after being diagnosed with COVID-19
“I can tell when I get more short of breath than normal and I was getting real short of breath to the point where it was real hard for me to breathe,” Jim Dresch said.
“So he started his treatments and I think he took one puff and he says, ‘call 911.’ Joan Dresch said.
Clipper Jim ended up in the emergency room and then the ICU on a ventilator.
Since the start of the pandemic, he’d only gone from home to his barbershop, where he required everyone to follow CDC guidelines, so he doesn’t know how he got it.
But his damaged lungs made his battle with the virus much more difficult. He spent 14 days in the COVID-19 unit at Sanford Hospital.
“I don’t know how I made it. The experience was not good at all. It was terrible. I couldn’t see Joan. That was really hard when you sit in a hospital room in four walls and you can’t see your wife at all. That was really hard,” Jim said.
While he was in the hospital, Clipper Jim developed fluid around his heart and extreme weakness. He is now getting physical therapy to regain his strength.
“His legs are still weak. I’m amazed at how fast he has come back. And the physical therapy is helping,” Joan said.
While COVID-19 took him down for several weeks, Clipper Jim is now back to seeing a handful of clients a day, with the help of extra oxygen.
“With my lungs the way they are with the cystic fibrosis, that’s going to make it a little harder for me to get off the oxygen. But I’m going to do it,” Jim said.
It’s that attitude that has gotten Clipper Jim through all of his health issues over the years.
“The first thing in my life and I’ve always been this way–I’ve been a very positive person. And what I went through–if you’re not a positive person, you’re not going to make it. Positive is the big thing,” Jim said.
Joan Dresch: All I can say is God didn’t want him. He shut the door to him and he said, ‘no you aren’t coming yet. You still have to stay. You have a purpose.'”
Kennecke: What do you think that purpose is?
Joan: To continue work with the CF Foundation and raising money for a cure. That has been his goal.
Clipper Jim’s yearly golf tournament has raised more than $330,000 toward the goal of finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.
“He’s just a go getter,” Joan said.
Kennecke: Do you feel like you’re a living miracle?
Jim Dresch: Yes I do. I’m very thankful to be here, I mean very thankful. I feel great! I’m very happy to be a man alive, very happy.
A medical study released in November found that outcomes for most people with cystic fibrosis are less severe than originally anticipated at the start of the global pandemic. However, in some cases, COVID-19 does cause serious illness in people with CF and even death.