COVID-19: A Survivor’s Tale

A longtime Westport resident, and avid Y’s Men member, writes:

My wife and I are recovering from the coronavirus. We are in our mid- and late 70’s respectively. We consider ourselves lucky

We think we got it in mid-March. Both of us started with nasty cold — sneezing, congested heads, runny noses. Over the next 4 days my wife complained of a burning sensation in her chest and abdomen. and felt tired and lousy.

I was chilled to the bone, shivering most of the time. But we did not have fevers (my temperature was actually 97). Then my wife developed some diarrhea and began running low grade fevers of 100.

She finally qualified for the viral testing. Her doctor arranged for us to make an appointment at the Norwalk Hospital drive-thru site.

We had the 9th morning appointment. When we got to the parking lot there were 25 cars in front of us. Sick people just showed up to get tested. We waited an hour. Finally my wife got the swab test up her nose.

If you hear “anyone who wants a test, can get a test,” don’t believe it. Tests are still very limited. On a per capita basis we are the laughingstock nation of the developed world — fewer than 1 test per 800 citizens so far.

We never developed coughs, chest pain or difficulty breathing (the main reasons for admittance to a hospital). But I ran temperatures of 102 to 104.5 while on Tylenol for 48 hours. We ate Trader Joe’s split pea soup, and drank a lot of tea for 2 or 3 days.

As I said, we were lucky. We had no respiratory distress, and no reason to be admitted to the hospital. We did not need oxygen or ventilators.

I developed a case of survivor’s guilt when heard statistics of how many COVID patients were dying. We don’t watch too many news broadcasts — too depressing.

COVID-19 has reached nearly every country in the world.

One of our sons is a physician in a large New York hospital. He said their beds were maxed out, their expanded ICUs were filled, and at one point they had no unused ventilators.

Recovering is no picnic. I think I’m finally getting better, then I feel lousy again. The fever comes back. The muscles ache again. I get tired too easily. Every time I get chilled or feel a little lightheaded, I worry something else will happen and I’ll land in the hospital.

After 4 weeks, we are finally starting to feel reasonably normal. We wear masks whenever we leave the house to walk on our street, to protect others from possibly getting the virus. Everyone should wear masks to protect themselves.

Most important: We want to know when we are not spreading contagion. We want exit viral testing. In South Korea, someone with the virus is required to have 2 negative tests, a week apart, before being considered viral-free. We also want testing to show we have hopefully developed some protective antibodies.

Finally, allow me to share some scary statistics. They should be all the reasons needed for everyone who is getting tired of sheltering in their homes to not be impatient, keep safe distancing, continue wearing face masks, and not rush the much anticipated state reopening for schools and businesses.

  • Fairfield: Of 246 symptomatic confirmed cases, 22 dead (8%)
  • Fairfield County: Of 5,276 confirmed and symptomatic cases, 165 dead (3%)
  • Connecticut: Of 15,884 confirmed and symptomatic cases, 984 dead (6%)
  • New York City: Of 123,000 confirmed and symptomatic cases, 11,500 dead (8%)

COVID-19 kills. And because it can spread so easily, the number of mourners at funerals is strictly limited.

This not the flu, with a less than 0.1% mortality rate. This is a serious contagion that is overloading our hospitals, ICUs and healthcare workers. We have to help lower the curve by doing our part.

The scariest statistic is this: If you become symptomatic enough to get tested (fever, muscle aches, loss of sense of smell and taste, diarrhea, chest pain, or difficulty breathing) you have a 3 to 8% chance of dying. Do everything you can to not get the disease!

COVID does not respect religious beliefs. Preachers and rabbis who insisted on regular prayer gatherings for their congregations have died of the virus.

Nor will it respect political beliefs. The Midwest conservatives gathering to protest the state government telling them they can’t gather to protest will probably end up as victims of the virus — and their own ignorance of how diseases work.

This is not just a disease of old people. Half of COVID-19 patients in ICUs on ventilators are younger than 55.

The takeaways from all this:

  • Old people can survive getting COVID.
  • Take it seriously. It is a nasty miserable disease.
  • Do your part to help lower the curve of this pandemic by social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and sheltering in place as much as possible.

16 responses to “COVID-19: A Survivor’s Tale

  1. Susan Iseman

    Thank you for sharing your story and I hope that your health continues to improve. I just heard that a 98 year old woman hospitalized in NYC survived as well! Blessings to you and your family.

  2. Bob Stalling

    The scary statistics listed were prefaced with the word symptomatic….
    What the author failed to mention is that the percentage of people who had or have Corona without symptoms is unknown and will remain unknown until all are tested…and as a result, the actual death % rate is unknown.
    The fact is, the death rate is to be determined.

    As far as testing….maybe the writers info is old, but as of yesterday, the U.S. is listed as second in testing with 11,821 per million, and even this is difficult to compare:
    “Not every country reports testing using the same metric, however, which can make the rates difficult to compare. The UK reports it as “people tested,” the US reports “total test results,” and Japan reports it as “persons.” South Korea, meanwhile, reports their testing total as “cases,” Turkey as number of “tests,” and Italy as number of “swabs.”

  3. Ernie Lorimer

    The statistics have gotten worse since this was written. In Connecticut as of yesterday 1,331 have died out of 19,815 cases, up 15% from the day before. In Fairfield County 512 have died out of 8,320 cases, or 6% (not 3%).

    Calculating it this way at this point is simplistic, of course, since the median time from symptoms to death is perhaps 2 weeks, so we won’t have a better handle on mortality until this is over. And this doesn’t include people who are asymptomatic but still contagious; at the rate we are testing it would take 1,000 days to test everyone in Connecticut, so we probably can only estimate the true infection rate.

    Then there is the other side of this: two thirds of the people sick enough to be tested (often after testing negative for the flu) are sick from something else. All of the public health measures so far have to be helping keep people safer from whatever those bugs are.

    I really don’t want to go through this again, but at this point the Dakotas and Iowa are a month behind the Northeast and aren’t yet moving the needle at all. They have a chance to be more like California and infect far fewer. If they don’t take that chance then we are put at risk of another wave.

  4. Charlie Taylor

    A GREAT SERVICE. Great information!
    Thanks Dan!

  5. Werner Liepolt

    It’s good to read about recovery and hear the thoughtful observations of a local survivor.

    What continues to be deeply troubling to me is not only the problematic testing situation, but also that our local government officials are not reporting anything about that crucial aspect of this situation.

    I’m fully supportive and grateful for the guidance on what we need to do for our mutual safety, but I haven’t heard a word about how soon wide spread testing will be available here or about what local progress the WWHD has made in contact tracing,

    Knowing what we can’t do is more possible when one knows what positive steps are being taken.

  6. William Weiss

    Excellent anecdote! Thank You for sharing this!

  7. Thanks for sharing this, Dan.

  8. Ruth-Anne Ring

    Unless I missed it, there was no mention of test results, how long it took for them to be notified of the positive results nor retesting that gave reassurance that she was negative. I also find it disturbing that he was not tested. He is right. Our health system is shameful.

  9. Thank you for putting this information on the site, so happy for the couple that their health is returning.

  10. The “06880” reader who wrote the original post asked me to pass along his comment, in response to the comments above:
    It is interesting to see how people responded to the post of our COVID19 journey.

    We thank all those who saw a family’s story and offered their best wishes. Deeply appreciated.

    To answer Ruth-Anne Ring- when my wife qualified to get tested I did not have fever or shortness of breath (so I did not qualify to have the test). It took two days to get the test results. By that time I was running high fevers, felt terrible and we could assume if my wife was positive then I was positive. When the WWHD did a followup call to my wife, I was recorded as a ” probable case of COVID- untested.”

    To those who may choose to play down our statistics ( the available number of tests done on symptomatic patients versus available mortality statistics) by saying we still don’t know how many people had the disease asymptomatically- all I can say is you are missing the point of our submitting the post. (By the way in sera tests in Chelsea section of Boston where they sheltered late – 30% of asymptomatic people texted with antibodies and In San Francisco where they began sheltering early it was 10% with a lower per capita death rate from COVID than Boston.

    This is much worse than the flu. The flu does not kill this many people, in this short a period of time. The flu does not sweep through nursing homes killing 25 to 50% of the old folks and some of the support staff. The flu does not fill our hospitals and threaten our lives because there is not enough face masks, protective gowns and ventilators. The flu does not cause our EMS, ambulance services, funeral homes, emergency rooms, hospitals and ICUs to get swamped and result in calls for help at all these levels.

    The points of the posting our story were simply stated in the takeaways- trying to be a little hopeful and a little helpful-

     Old people can survive getting COVID.
     Take it seriously. It is a nasty miserable disease.
     Do your part to help lower the curve of this pandemic by social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and sheltering in place as much as possible.

  11. Dorothy Robertshaw

    Thank you Dan for the real news and testimony …. it’s not asking much for people to wear a mask outside I don’t understand the big deal Is

    Sent from my iPad

  12. Thanks to everyone for their comments and special thanks and blessings to my YsMen brother who reported and then answered questions. I have shared Dan’s blog with family and friends.

  13. Send it to the governor of Georgia he is out of touch!

  14. Andrew Boyarsky

    I am so glad that you and your wife have recovered from this and hope that you continue to a full recovery. I’m also thankful that you are sharing your story and how horrible this pandemic is. Every life counts that we save from this.

  15. Annette Norton

    Kudos to the man who shared his story and as always THANK GOODNESS for Dan Woog! What a story. Dan, thank you for sharing! We are all so lucky to have the 06880!

    • Thanks, Annette. We are all in this together. I hope you are doing well — and selling tons of stuff from Savvy + Grace online. Rock on!