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Ala. officer, 47, comes home after 269 days battling COVID

Craig Pruett spent seven months on a ventilator and lost 80 pounds. Now, he’s on the long road to recovery


Craig Pruett, a State Bureau of Investigation agent, came home after spending more than eight months in hospitals and rehab facilities, recovering from COVID-19.

William Thornton

By William Thornton

ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. — There were times since last August when Craig Pruett’s family wondered if he would survive COVID-19.

This morning, when the State Bureau of Investigations agent returned to his Etowah County home for the first time in more than eight months, he remembered weeks he spent in what felt like a neverending dream, between life and death.

He knew he was being treated in a hospital, but in the dream, he was FaceTiming his wife Sara, as she talked him back to consciousness.

“I’m a very strong willed person,” he said. “I was not ready to go, and I came out of it.”

Crowds of people cheered Pruett on as he left a Gadsden rehab facility this morning and received a police escort to his home, past crowds of people with banners and signs welcoming him back.

One of those who came to cheer for him was fellow SBI agent Chris Sims. Two years ago, Sims spent 73 days on life support at UAB recovering from COVID.

“I just wanted him to know there’s life on the other side,” Sims said.

Pruett admits he is a shell of the man he was before he became ill.

Last August, he was a 47-year-old, 180-pound man days away from his birthday who had just come back from a beach vacation.

After playing a band gig in Nashville, he started feeling sick.

Within a few days, his oxygen level dropped into the 60s, and he was admitted to the hospital. Once he was taken to its COVID unit, he has no memory of what happened in the months that followed.

His daughter Lia remembers.

For nearly two months, no one in the family could see him, she said, because of COVID protocols.

Then in late September, hospital staff called the family in to say goodbye on the day after his son Bryson’s 23rd birthday. But he kept fighting.

“Nobody wanted to tell me bye,” Craig said. “I’m glad they didn’t.”

On Lia’s birthday, he coded with no pulse. On his son Cory’s birthday, his lungs collapsed.

“We started discussing whether he should be resuscitated,” Lia said. “I thought, if he’s fighting, then I’m fighting.”

He was still sedated months later when Lia began talking to him about the family cats. That’s when he smiled. “I thought, he’s here,” she said.

Pruett says he still has a “long road.”

He spent 213 days on a ventilator, and 269 in hospitals and rehab facilities.

His weight, which got under 100 pounds, is now up to 120. When he was able to eat solid food again, he gorged on chicken pot pie, lasagna, donuts, and other delicacies.

He says he’s learned not to take for granted the mundane tasks of life, like being able to dress himself, roll over in bed, and breathe.

And he’s looking forward to spending time with his family.

“His voice is very frail,” Lia said, “but I always think of him as strong, because he is. He’s Superman.”

[MORE: COVID-19: Law enforcement deaths]

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