A family with West Michigan ties impacted by Hurricane Ian are now facing an additional crisis related to the flooding.
Larry Davis and his son, Ian Davis, are originally from Stevensville, Michigan.
Larry’s house in South Fort Myers Beach, Florida, was damaged beyond repair by a storm surge that flooded the house with water from the Gulf of Mexico when Category 4 Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida on Sept. 28.
The second-deadliest storm to strike the continental U.S. this century, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Ian has caused more than 135 fatalities and an estimated $67-75 billion in damages, primarily from flooding.
The city of Fort Myers Beach was particularly hard hit.
“We were expecting the storm surge to be one foot, when in fact it was nine,” said Ian Davis, who, like many Michiganders, also maintains a residence in Florida.
On Oct. 6, after having “lost everything,” according to Ian, the pair took refuge at Ian’s home in St. Joseph, Michigan. Within two hours of arrival, Larry, 73, became severely ill and Ian called 911. Larry was taken to Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph.
The prognosis was not good.
Larry had contracted bacterial infections; Shigella, a genus of bacteria related to E-coli, and Pseudomonas. Ian surmised it was from wading through flood waters full of contaminants.
Larry had recently survived a liver transplant on May 14 of this year. While his recovery was going well, according to Ian, the medications that followed had taken a toll on his dad’s immune system.
“Because of the anti-rejection medications, it suppressed his immune system and he had no way to fight these infections,” said Ian Davis.
Larry was rushed, by ambulance, from St. Joseph to Corewell Health Butterworth Hospital (formerly Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital). Ian followed in his own vehicle and arrived in Grand Rapids around midnight.
Upon arrival in Grand Rapids, Ian reached out to one of the only people he knew in the area, Tenille Wyble, a friend from eighth grade at Lakeshore Schools in Stevensville.
Wyble, an OR Nurse (who works for Corewell Health United Hospital in Greenville) and her husband, Karl Wyble, got out of bed and drove into town to meet Ian near the hospital. Without even having to ask, Ian was invited to stay at their second home through the duration of Larry’s hospital stay.
Larry’s infection initially improved and he was expected to be released from the hospital on Friday, Oct. 21, but his situation, according to Ian, “took a turn.” As of Monday, Oct. 24, Larry Davis is still fighting for his life at Butterworth.
Paying it forward
Throughout his father’s hospital stay, Ian Davis has been in close contact with his Florida community, helping to arrange a fundraiser to benefit a chef, Peter Lilienthal, who stayed on Pine Island to protect his property and fellow community members while the storm raged. Using his own resources to keep his fellow islanders fed after the only bridge from the mainland to the island collapsed, Lilienthal was integral to their survival during the three days they were cut off. Read more about “Chef Pete” here.