COVID companions reunite months after being hospitalized in Sioux Falls

Positively KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — They were complete strangers, from different states, yet COVID-19 brought them together for a week-long stay in a Sioux Falls hospital room. On Thursday, these two former Sanford hospital roommates met for the first time since their discharge, four months ago.

“Arnie! Good afternoon! Good to see you there, buddy!”

Two buddies who bonded through their bouts with COVID-19.

“How the heck are you? Good. Good. Good to see you. You’re looking good, man.”

Arnie Ihrke of Round Lake, Minnesota dropped by John Lown’s Sioux Falls home to do some catching up after they spent a week together in the hospital recovering from COVID-19, back in November. Irke was airlifted in from Worthington.

“It was rough. Just a lot of bouncing, very loud, they had to put ear muffs on,” Ihrke said.

Ihrke spent nearly two days in intensive care before he was moved into a hospital room. That’s where he was joined by his new roommate, who also had COVID-induced pneumonia.

“I walked in and I was like, oh man, I got a roommate,” John Lown said.

“That’s what I thought. Gosh,” Ihrke said.

“Oh, man,” Lown said.

At the time, Sanford was doubling-up patients in the same room because of a new surge in coronavirus cases. The two reluctant roomies soon learned they had a shared interest in football.

“He’s a Vikings fan. I’m a Broncos fan, so,” Lown said.

“As long as it’s not a Packer, we can live with that,” Ihrke said.

The two never fought over the TV remote.

“I don’t know how much dang football we watched,” Lown said.

“A lot, thank goodness for a lot of football,” Ihrke said.

“We watched a lot of football, we watched a lot of Gunsmoke, we watched a lot of Andy Griffith,” Lown said.

The companionship between the two roommates filled an emotional void during their stay in the hospital since visitors were not allowed.

“It wasn’t like you were stuck in a lonely hospital bed all alone with nobody around and all that sort of thing, with nobody to talk to,” Lown said.

Both men were discharged from the hospital on the same day.

“They told me I was going home and I was like…” Lown said.

“Yes! get out of here,” Ihrke said.

But in their haste to leave the hospital, the two men never had the chance for a proper goodbye. So Sanford arranged this reunion, allowing these fully-recovered roommates to resume their friendship.

“It was just meant to be. We got each other,” Ihrke said.

“It really was nice that you had somebody,” Lown said.

Both men were full of praise for the nurses who attended to them. They said the nurses never appeared to be overwhelmed by the surge in patients and even spent extra time visiting with their patients.

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