Veteran who survived COVID-19 using second chance to help others

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KOKOMO – Just a few months ago, Army veteran Nick Ooley was in a medically induced coma on a respirator.

Doctors had given him a 12-percent chance of surviving COVID-19.

“Never did I figure I’d catch it,” Ooley said.  “Let alone be the first person to catch it in Rush County.”

Ooley’s situation was complicated due to the fact that he has Restrictive Lung Syndrome, believed to have been caused by the harsh conditions he endured during his deployment to Iraq.

Ooley spent more than 20 days in the same hospital where his wife worked, one floor above him but unable to visit. More than half his time in the hospital was spent on a respirator, so he wasn’t always aware of all the support he and his family were receiving.

“My wife’s posts on Facebook were shared 16-17-hundred times,” Ooley said. “I was receiving messages as far as Sacramento California, Dallas, Texas.”

That support, even from people he didn’t know, became a key factor in Ooley’s eventual recovery.

“The messages, the food. I have a ten-year-old son, letting him know that Daddy was going to be alright,” Ooley continued.

A few months later, when Ooley heard of an Air Force veteran who needed a new roof but was unable to pay for it, he saw an opportunity to pass on the kindness he and his family had received.

“I’m still in shock over it,” said Kokomo resident and Air Force veteran, Dave Young. “It’s not something that happens every day.”

Ooley learned that Young had called the roofing company he works for, Bloomington-based Cornerstone Roofing to inquire about financing a new roof. That’s when Ooley got permission from Cornerstone Roofing’s owner, Matthew Hunsucker, to do something special.

“We decided that we weren’t going to do the in-house financing, that we would just donate the roof to them and help them out,” Ooley said.

On Tuesday, Ooley and his Cornerstone Roofing crew went to Young’s Kokomo home and installed the new roof at no charge. Normally, the job would cost between $7,000 and $8,000.

Getting the new roof will mean Young should be able to get the homeowner’s insurance he’s been trying for 9 years to get on his house.

“It filled me with so much happiness knowing that I was about ready to pretty much change their life that they don’t have to worry about this expense,” Ooley said.

“Still blows me away, I’m just in shock,” Young said. “And that’s what I want to be able to do eventually, is pay it forward since he’s paid it forward. And I think that’s what it’s all about.”

Overall, Ooley says the last several months have not only challenged him but also changed his outlook on the world.

“There is good out there,” he said.  “You’ve just got to keep looking for it.”

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