INDIANAPOLIS – Sen. Dennis Kruse's voice is a little scratchy with an occasional cough as he tells how he recently almost died from a bout with COVID-19.
The conservative Republican from Auburn writhed in agony in bed for a week, eventually spent 10 days in an intensive care unit and now is at home getting his strength back after losing 20 pounds.
And Kruse stands behind not getting the vaccine, which might have avoided a hospitalization.
“I chose to not do that. I don't think it's necessary,” he said in an interview with The Journal Gazette. “I believe in natural herd immunity. Let it take its course and move on.”
Indiana data shows the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths – about 90% since January – are in the unvaccinated.
But Kruse made it to his 75th birthday today – surrounded by 50 balloons brought to his house for a gathering of family and friends. And while chatting on the phone he checks his oxygen levels using a new finger sensor and proudly says it is 98%.
“God spared my life,” Kruse said. “I do think another day I would probably have died.”
That's what the Parkview Hospital doctors in Fort Wayne told him when a physician friend brought him in several weeks ago.
At the start of September, Kruse said he started feeling different and as the days went on, he got worse.
“My body was aching and in pain all over. I had uncontrollable shaking,” he said.
About the same time his wife, Kay, had new pain she was dealing with as a result of terminal bone cancer. Kruse took her to the emergency room and she was admitted. He went home and got worse every day – barely leaving his bed.
“As the days went on, I knew I had something bad. I guess I wasn't thinking COVID,” Kruse said.
Eventually a friend, also a physician, texted Kruse and didn't like his answers. He then called Kruse and was concerned with how he sounded. He came to Kruse's house without asking and took him to the hospital.
“It's a miracle the doctor came to my house and took me,” he said.
In the ICU for 10 days, Kruse said he doesn't know all the medications he received though there were many. He was never put on a ventilator but was receiving between 60 and 70 liters of oxygen per minute from a high-flow oxygen machine.
Kruse never lost his taste or smell or had a fever.
He said the entire hospital stay was uncomfortable – “I didn't like that at all. I would rather not have gone through it.”
Kruse said his wife was also found to have COVID – but without symptoms. She was treated for the complication of bone cancer and came home before he was released Sept. 27. At one point they were six doors down from each other in the hospital but couldn't see each other.
“It was quite an experience,” he said, noting they have rarely been apart in their marriage lasting 53 years. And only once before has Kruse been in a hospital – 31 years ago with a kidney stone.
When he first returned home, he was still on oxygen 24 hours a day but now is down to two or three hours a day.
Kruse and Kay went out for lunch Tuesday – their first time out except for doctor appointments. And his six prescriptions have now finished up. Kay is awaiting a new treatment for her cancer though she has already lived seven months past what doctors originally expected.
Kruse said his stance on vaccination is the same and he will likely file a bill again next session that would limit employer vaccine mandates.