Friends in the Field

Farmers and friends who spent time last Thursday helping bring in the harvest for Mike Erbes were, from left: John Lanoue, Jason Lichty, Steve Johnson, Karson Herfurth, Ben Ludeman, George Erbes, Jared Johnson, Brad Boerboom, Jake Swenhaugen, Kevin Erbes, Ron Petersen, Jonathon Erbes, John Campbell, Brian Erbes, Riley Danielson, Scott Lanoue and Logan Axford. Others who have helped out include Cooper Lanoue, George Landuyt, Mike Landuyt, Will Alf, Mike Edwards, Jenny Towne, Griffin Radke and Kari Landuyt. Photos / Per Peterson

Those close to the Erbes family are doing what they can to help out as Mike recovers from a dangerous bout with COVID-19

By Per Peterson

Mike’s wife, Missie, talks with one of the helpers Thursday. Missie said she is grateful for the support the family has received.

Since Mother Nature wasn’t willing to provide many rays of sunshine to a group of farmers pitching in to help the Mike and Missie Erbes family last Thursday, Missie gladly did the honors.

As a collection of more than a dozen farming friends enjoyed their lunch after working one of Mike’s fields as he lay in a hospital bed in Sioux Falls, recovering after being hit hard with COVID-19, Missie showed up with some uplifting news that was music to everyone’s ears and lightened the mood in the field.

“He’s awake! He’s no longer sedated, no longer paralyzed and he’s responding to questions and commands. He’s awake!” Missie exclaimed Thursday, shortly after getting off the phone with Sanford.

Just two days later, Mike was taken off his ventilator, and Missie and Mike were able to share some time together via Facetime. According to a Caringbridge post Monday, Mike’s condition had improved to the point where he was able to be transferred to another room, although he still couldn’t have visitors.

Missie said she has learned a lot from her family’s experience over the last month.

“It’s important for us all to keep in communication with our doctors while ill,” she said. “I believe it would have helped us see this illness through a different set of eyes. We were watching for the typical hardships: shortness of breath, wheezing, deep chest cough. Had we known how well COVID masks those symptoms I would have had him at the ER days sooner.”

Mike experienced his first COVID-19 symptoms on Wednesday, Sept. 22; initially, he thought it an allergic reaction from cleaning out a dryer bin of corn, Missie said. However, two days later, it became clear allergies weren’t the culprit. By Sept. 25, the farmer, friend and family man found himself too tired to go into the field, and on Sept. 30 — after a few days on the couch and after his oxygen level had plummeted — he was admitted to Sanford Tracy. On Oct. 1, he was transported to Sanford Sioux Falls and by midnight that day, Missie got the call that he was to be intubated. Missie said Mike’s COVID isolation could potentially end today (Oct. 13); that’s when the decision on where to move him was to be made — further COVID care, or regular ICU care.

Missie wasn’t able to talk to her husband last Thursday, but she was allowed to call him and talk while he was under sedation. The 10-minute, one-sided conversation was an important step in the recovery process.

“I wanted to be able to have that conversation with him to keep his mind at peace, but at the same time, I would really love for him just to not be thinking right now,” said Missie. “I don’t want him to be worrying about everything when he’s laying there.”

A person’s oxygen level, Missie said, is something that needs to be kept an eye on. No one knows that better than she does. Since her husband’s ordeal, she has purchased a $20 battery-operated fingertip monitor.

“I would strongly suggest everyone have a blood oxygen saturation monitor in their medicine cabinet,” she said. “I think about how helpful that device could have been even when my boys were young; one of my sons used to get bronchitis when he was younger. I feel this simple $20 device could have given me peace of mind.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.