PORTLAND, Maine — Ashley Jardine remembers it like it was yesterday.
March 27, 2020: the day her father, Pete, was diagnosed with COVID-19.
It was the very beginning of the pandemic and the beginning of what turned out to be a living hell for her family.
Not even six hours after being diagnosed, Pete Jardine was sent to Maine Medical Center's intensive care unit. Pete couldn't breathe. Instead, a ventilator would have to do the breathing for him.
"Not being able to be by his side because of the hospital policy that was such a helpless feeling," Ashley Jardine said. "I was so desperate some days not knowing if he was going to live or die that I literally drove there one night in the middle of the night and just sat in my car just to feel close to him."
Pete said he was healthy and had no known underlying conditions. At first, his symptoms were blown off for the common cold but they soon realized the virus was much stronger.
"All of a sudden it just turned and when it turned it was quick," Pete said.
Pete would spend days in a medically induced coma on the ventilator. His kidneys were too weak to handle the only drug at the time known to lessen symptoms, Remdesivir.
On top of that, Pete was alone. His family was unable to see him, unable to hold his hand or do anything for the man they loved most.
"It was so difficult for us not to be able to be there, to have to talk to him and say what we wanted to say over the phone or an iPad," Ashley said.
Ashley said it was a terrifying time. The first case of COVID-19 in Maine was diagnosed just 16 days earlier. Pete was one of only 13 cases diagnosed on March 27. Not knowing what to do or where to turn, Ashley decided to share her father's story on social media with a plea for help. Soon Ashley had created a small online community all rallying around a man most had never even met.
"It was cathartic in a way for me because I was able to talk about it and get feedback, get that emotional support that my mom and my family so desperately needed," Ashley said.
Pete would spend 11 days in a medically induced coma. His hospital stay cost him 30 pounds and his strength.
"Why do we need physical therapy my chair is right there, can't I just walk over to it?" Pete joked. "It wasn't until they came in that day that I soon realized I couldn't walk."
Pete's recovery would have to focus on that.
Eleven more days and many hours of physical therapy later, Pete finally got the green light to go home. It's one of the only parts of his hospital stay he remembers.
"Just being outside for the first time was just unreal," Pete said.
"I wanted to hug him but I couldn't hug him which was unfortunate so that part was a bummer," Ashley said.
The Jardines were given a police escort to their home in South Berwick after Pete was released from Maine Medical Center. Once he was home, Pete was greeted by a parade of cars full of friends and family celebrating his return.
"I remember that coming home was really emotional," Pete said. "Never expected in a million years the response from the town."
"I just see this parade of cars and I'm like 'Wow.' I was blown away," Ashley said. "It's a day that I know I'll forever be grateful for."
A year later and Pete is getting used to retirement. He's now spending his days bringing the home of his dreams to life and slowing down just enough to enjoy the simple things.
While COVID-19 took so much from him, Pete said at the same time he gained something better. Perspective.
"I really got this new lease on life," Pete said. "You know it became more important for me to be working for my family and my home and enjoy life even if it's just cruising around Dresden down to Wiscasset and down to Boothbay and back—I'm good, I'm good with that, I'm happy with that."