She couldn’t see it directly, but Monique Moreno knew her dad, Tim Dugan, was smiling underneath his face mask Friday, after seeing each other for the first time in nearly a month due to his COVID-19 diagnosis.
“From what I could tell, because he was wearing a mask, he was definitely smiling. He was just happy to see us,” said Moreno, who works at College of the Canyons with her brother and Dugan.
About 25 days ago, Valencia resident Dugan realized he had an abnormally difficult time breathing, and eventually was placed into a medically induced coma for two weeks when his oxygen levels reached low levels.
The 58-year-old man known for pushing through any minor illness and not skipping work was diagnosed with COVID-19.
He didn’t raise any major flags. No fever. Just a slight cough, but was believed to be his typical asthma-related cough. Yet, Moreno knew something went eventually wrong.
“It was never anything different until he went to the hospital and said he was having difficulty breathing, and it hurt to breathe. I know my dad. Any time he’s ever been sick; he’s always said he’s fine and goes to work, and that’s how I knew something was wrong — because my dad was laying in bed for a week,” she said.
Dugan works as a locksmith at the college and has always been home by his wife’s side, missing only two or three days at most when driving COC athletes to their sporting events out of town.
His absence and the uncertainty of his health took a toll on his loved ones, especially his wife and 6-year-old granddaughter.
“I had to explain to my youngest one what was happening because she was devastated. Her grandpa would go take her to get her nails done, and (he) gives her anything, and she would cry when she didn’t see him anymore,” said Moreno.
But about a month after the family saw Dugan off at the hospital, the group reunited outside of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. With face masks, balloons and signs from medical staff, his COC coworkers and family, including his granddaughter, Dugan celebrated his release after treatment and testing negative with the coronavirus.
And he celebrated with a victory walk, quite literally.
“We were all waiting there and all of sudden he walked out. He was not in a wheelchair; he just walked out. It was amazing,” said Moreno, who joined her COC colleagues.
“Myself and his friends were overjoyed when he came walking out of the hospital. Many of us were so happy that we cried,” said Cynthia Madia, who works with the family at COC.
Dugan, who has spent his time resting after his release from Henry Mayo, now has to take heart medication, and doctors are unsure whether he will have to do so indefinitely or for a short period of time, said Moreno.
She advised the public to monitor one’s health and not ignore any symptoms.
“If you’re talking to your doctor, don’t downplay your symptoms,” Moreno said, “Tell them exactly how you feel because that’s the only way they’re going to know, because mostly everything is virtual or on the phone.”