Hitting close: CAK grad OK

After 46 days, Dalton smiling

  • Patrick Dalton and his wife, Bailey, happily pose during his drive-by welcome home celebration Saturday, May 30, at Patrick’s alma mater, Christian Academy of Knoxville. - Michelle Hollenhead

  • Following a battle with COVID-19 that encompassed three hospitals and 46 days, Christian Academy of Knoxville Class of 2014 alum Patrick Dalton, center, was released from Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center Wednesday, May 27, into the waiting arms of his family, which included from left, his brother, Alex; his mother, Felicia, his wife, Bailey, and his father, Tony Dalton. - Michelle Hollenhead

Following 46 days of hospitalization, former Christian Academy of Knoxville football standout Patrick Dalton celebrated a long-fought victory over COVID-19 Saturday, May 30, on the CAK campus, surrounded by his family and attended by numerous friends, and even strangers, who had been praying for his recovery.

Mary Jo Houser brought her son, Beau, who knew both Patrick and his younger brother, Alex Dalton.

“You don’t know me, Patrick, but I know you,” said Houser as she exited her car. “You’ve been in our prayers every day.

“You are just a walking miracle and an answer to prayer.”

Dalton, 24, who graduated from CAK in 2014, said he was “feeling good” Saturday, but is still weak and working to get his strength back after being ill for so long.

“I can do everything right now but stairs,” he reported, flashing a smile.

Dalton’s mother, Felicia Dalton, said the family had long been planning a celebration to commemorate when Patrick was finally released from the third facility helping nurse him back to health, and CAK officials stepped up to offer the location.

“Patrick Dalton and the Dalton family have been long-time (members of the) CAK Warrior Family,” said Head of School Rich Fulford. “Even though their children have graduated, they are still ‘Warriors for life.’

“... We are grateful that God healed Patrick and are humbled that the Dalton family would ask CAK to join them and host the celebration of his recovery. In all things, to God be the glory.” 

Celebrants were asked to wear masks, so Patrick didn’t have to, and friends and acquaintances drove by from 3 to 5 p.m. to find Dalton and his family under several tents fronting the main CAK campus building.

Tony Benton, Tennova Health Care East Market CEO, and Travis Simmons, Chief Nursing officer with Turkey Creek Medical Center, were among the well-wishers, as TCMC was the first hospital where Dalton was admitted after exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. and spent about two weeks there.

“I know you don’t know us, but we have been watching your progress every step of the way,” said Benton, as he presented a card to Dalton.

“We had a prayer group that met and prayed for you every day,” Simmons added.

But when he didn’t improve, he was transferred to St. Thomas West Hospital in Nashville, which was equipped with an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine, similar to a heart-lung bypass machine, which pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

“He really did so much better after that,” said Patrick’s wife, Bailey Dalton, who along with Patrick’s mother and several others in the same West Knox County household, also were diagnosed with COVID-19, although none required hospitalization.

The couple would have celebrated their first anniversary April 6, but it passed without them being able to be together, as Patrick was in a medically-induced coma.

Bailey said doctors never knew why Patrick became so severely ill, but suggested the pneumonia and strep diagnoses likely contributed.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the family was not allowed to visit Patrick. However, they stayed in close contact with his doctors and nurses, and his mother was able to post periodic updates on Facebook to let family and friends know about his condition.

He was able to FaceTime his family members, when he was lucid and as he began recuperating.

In the meantime, doctors still had him on a ventilator during much of his treatment. He had a feeding tube, and also underwent a tracheotomy.

When he was stronger, Patrick was transferred to Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in downtown Knoxville, and did so well he was released earlier than anticipated — Wednesday, May 27 — and the couple returned to living with Patrick’s parents, Felicia and Tony Dalton.

Bailey said her husband “is doing so much better now, especially mentally, since he has been able to spend time with his family and friends.

“He still needs some follow-up physical therapy, but he is ready to do anything,” she added.