Sports Pub owner recalls experience battling COVID-19

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff photo Susie and Kevin Kenney, owners of the Salisbury Sports Pub, are happy to be together after Kevin's serious bout with COVID-19.

SALISBURY — Kevin and Susie Kenney had a rough 2020 but they both know they are lucky to still be together in 2021 after a frightening struggle with COVID-19 in November.

The Kenneys, who have been married for 28 years, own the Salisbury Sports Pub and have spent most of the past year trying to keep their doors open.

"We always took COVID seriously because we own a business," Kevin Kenney said. "But for me, I'm 50 years old. I figured, if I get it, I'll survive it and I'll move on. Then I got it and I was in bed for seven days and couldn't move."

Eight days into his illness, he emerged from his bedroom (the couple quarantined from each other in separate rooms) and asked his wife to take him to Anna Jaques Hospital.

"He came out of the room that day and said, 'the COVID is attacking my lungs,'" Susie Kenney said.

"I thought I was going to die," Kevin said.

Susie quickly got her husband into their car and headed for Newburyport.

"We got to the hospital and he was literally falling out of the car," she said. "I was yelling out to a nurse to help us out. She picked him up and brought him right into the facility. But I couldn't go in myself."

Susie Kenney and her three children spent the next five days hoping and praying for the best for their husband and father.

"He was in what they call 'the red zone,' for at least a good, three solid days," she said. "He wasn't showing any signs of improvement and it looked like he was getting worse, not better. But I guess that is just how the process goes."

The COVID-19 virus had indeed attacked Kevin Kenney's lungs and had given him pneumonia in the process. But things began turning around for him after five days in the hospital.

"The hospital absolutely has a great plan on how to treat this now," Kevin said. "If this had happened back in March, I'm not sure if I would be here today."

According to Susie, Kevin did not contract the virus while working at their restaurant.

"We got a phone call from someone who hangs out with us that told us that a friend of theirs had tested positive," she said. "Kevin was in a group of four people who had gotten together with this person, after hours. Even though they weren't hanging out in our facility, we immediately shut the restaurant down as a precaution and sent everyone into quarantine."

Kevin admitted that he and his three other friends had simply let their guard down after a hard day's work.

"We were all together and we weren't wearing our masks," he said. "Then everybody got it."

Susie also made sure to contact every patron who had visited the restaurant during the time when Kevin contracted the virus in mid-November but said no one told her they had caught COVID-19.

"(Gov. Charlie Baker) keeps encouraging people to stay in small groups. But it's those small groups that are causing this," Susie said. "When you are out, you are following all of the guidelines. When you are in a small group at home, you are not. I really feel like he's sending the wrong message about how you really need to treat this thing"

Kevin said his restaurant has been following all of the COVID-19 safety precautions but he would like to see his business survive the pandemic, just as he did.

"We have always taken this very seriously in the restaurant," he said. "We have hand sanitizer everywhere and you can see how many chairs and tables have been pushed aside so that we have the space required to stay open. But our business really is dying and it is such a shame."

The Kenneys were so appreciative of the care they received at Anna Jaques that they did a 50/50 raffle at the Salisbury Sports Pub which raised $760 for the hospital once they reopened.

"They were terrific from a medical perspective but it is also about the emotional care that they provided," Susie said. "That was extremely important for us."

Kevin's daughter Ashley also provided him some support during his illness by letting him know that his first grandchild was on the way.

"We did a Zoom call with Kevin and she put a little onesie up in front of the camera," Susie said.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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