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‘He’s a stubborn child of God’: Medevac helicopter pilot released from UAB COVID unit after 187 days

Ricky Hamm tested positive for COVID-19 after his first vaccine dose. He doesn’t blame the vaccine.
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 1:34 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 2:53 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We love sharing these stories. Ricky Hamm, a medevac helicopter pilot, was released Friday, July 16, from UAB’s COVID unit after a 187-day stay.

Ricky was on an intense breathing device for 147 days. He said Friday, “I’m getting better every minute.”

Ricky flies helicopters for Survival Flight.

He said more than six months ago he got the first shot of the Moderna vaccine on a Tuesday, he got sick on a Wednesday and was in the hospital by Sunday. He said he does not blame the vaccine.

“We live in a rural area, and I always wore a mask and kept my distance when going to town,” Hamm said. “A bunch of us went to get the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, but I must have already had the virus.”

Four other co-workers tested positive for COVID-19. Three of them, including Ricky had been vaccinated. The four co-workers were back to work within two weeks, Ricky was in the hospital for more than six months.

Family members stayed with Ricky in 24 hour shifts. He said he has a phobia of hospitals, and he thanks his wife, family and the Lord for getting him through.

Hamm was on ECMO, a breathing device, for 147 days, a remarkably long time. He also has the dubious distinction of being UAB’s longest-tenured COVID-19 patient, at 187 days. He will still be on supplemental oxygen after discharge, and he will use an extra-strength CPAP machine at night for a while to help his breathing. He has suffered profound hearing loss, which his wife, Shannon, a speech pathologist, hopes may resolve over time.

Ricky said he doesn’t remember the first four months after getting sick and being in the hospital. His wife said he finally became aware and got involved with his treatment and recovery in the “fourth quarter” and things started improving.

She said Ricky is a “guy’s guy” who loves his family and staying at home. She said part of his recovery and journey is because he’s a “stubborn child of God.”

She and Ricky said people should get the COVID-19 vaccine. Ricky said he will get a vaccine when he is able.

He and his family got an escort home from area police officers and EMA personnel - friends who were there to congratulate him and happy to celebrate his homecoming.

Ricky said the first things he will do when he gets home are tour his new house, he’s never seen it, and visit his cows.

Hamm is 50 years old. They did not celebrate his birthday much in 2020 due to the pandemic. They will celebrate this time. He came home from the hospital — after more than seven months — the day before his 51st birthday.

We wish Ricky the best in his recovery!

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