SALINA, Kan. (KAKE) – A Salina man has been in the hospital for more than a year. At first it was due to COVID-19 complications, but then doctors realized something was wrong with his back. Steve Pinkle wants to share his journey with others.

“While I was in Pennsylvania, they put me in a coma. At one point they tried to get my wife to agree to unplug me. They thought I was so bad off,” said Pinkle, who was in the hospital for a year.

His odyssey began when he was at work one day last August. Neither his wife Kim nor his boss could reach him.

“They found me in the ditch behind the truck. (They were) Not sure how I got there. I was either on my way to the building or came back and didn’t make it,” Pinkle said.

There he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Pinkle tells us he barely remembers the trip to the hospital. Other health complications made his recovery particularly difficult.

“I was diabetic and had COVID. Probably not in the best of physical shape anyway. Diabetes didn’t help at all,” Pinkle explained.

He may have started with COVID in the hospital. But that wasn’t the only thing that kept him in the hospital for so long.

“My wound on my butt,” Pinkle lamented. “It was a complication of COVID. Because when I was hooked up to all the machines and ventilators and stuff like that, they couldn’t turn me over or lift me off my back.”

He started at a Pennsylvania hospital in August 2021 and was then flown to a Wichita hospital in October. But then, after spending a year in the hospital in August, he got a call from work.

“I got a call from HR. She said unfortunately it’s been a year. They carried me for a year, but suddenly she says we have to break up with you. And right then and there I had no job, no insurance,” Pinkle said.

It wasn’t the pay that Steve was concerned about as he told KAKE News he was only paid a week’s vacation. It was his health insurance. They had support from a GoFundMe. He tells us it helped, but it’s all gone.

“It’s going to be scary. We just barely keep our house. It’s not safe anyway,” Pinkle said.

One thing Steve doesn’t want is to go into a nursing home.

“When they first said that I think you envision a nursing home, that’s the place you’re old and need care, that’s where they send you and most people never get out. That was really in my head,” Pinkle said.

The state insurance commissioner called the couple, and Steve is expected to be placed in a rehab center rather than a nursing home. Steve believes in himself.

“Learn to walk again, get up and so on. I’m doing pretty well, but I still have work to do. And that’s coming from a guy who throws and unloads kitchen cabinets all day. Now my big achievement is sitting on the edge of the bed by myself,” Pinkle said.

He remains optimistic about that.

“There’s no way you can tell me miracles don’t exist. I wasn’t supposed to be here today, and I am,” Pinkle said.

Steve wants to get well so he can see his grandson. He also hopes to be able to return to work.

His wife Kim was by his side every step of the way. They hope he’ll be in a rehab center soon.