I was talking to one of the families we care for in our Radiology Department, and the talk turned to social distancing and wearing masks. I didn’t mention the need to flatten the curve or the risk of dying from COVID-19. I told them this story. They told me they were glad I shared it. Maybe you’ll feel the same way.
This is a story with a message. Adam is fully recovered so don’t worry that this story will make your day harder. I hope it will give you something to think about and some extra encouragement as we all do our best in this strange and difficult time.
I’ve pretty much had it with COVID-19. I want to be closer than six feet to my friends, Zoom chats don’t come close to making up for not getting together in the backyard, and masks are hot and uncomfortable. Then we had new turbulence across our country. For the first time, I wasn’t thinking about COVID, but maybe I wish I was. With all that I still wear my mask every time I think I might get near someone else, I step to the side rather than pass close to someone on the sidewalk, and I keep my six-foot distance. The reason isn’t that I’m a doctor, or that someone has told me I should. The reason is Adam.
Adam is my son. He’s 26, lives in Michigan, and works for Toyota. Before the stay-at-home order, he worked out at the gym three days a week and played pickup basketball whenever he could. Adam’s not big or tall, but he traded classroom tutoring for basketball lessons for four years at Xavier so underestimate him on the court at your own risk.
Adam followed the stay-at-home order to the letter. He left home only for shopping, and shopped every other week. He washed his hands for 20 seconds every time he thought about it, which was often. He had been at home for a month when the story begins. On a Friday and Saturday in April, he felt like he had allergies, was fine on the weekend, and woke up on Monday with a fever, headaches, and a bad cough. Tuesday he was so weak that he put chairs around his apartment because he couldn’t walk from his bedroom to the living room without sitting down and resting. He cooked sitting down. On Wednesday, muscle aches started. By Friday they were bad enough that he couldn’t sleep at night. He got a few hours of sleep in the afternoon when exhaustion took over. His doctor ordered a COVID test. He had his girlfriend drive him to the test station. No way he could drive himself. No surprise, the test was positive. He lost his sense of taste and smell. That means that whatever you eat tastes like cardboard. After a few days, the cough got better, but the fever, muscle aches, and weakness kept on for two weeks. After two weeks the fever slowly went down and by three weeks he was able to go back to working from home, still with some muscle aches, weakness and headaches, but the rest of the symptoms were pretty much gone.
Before COVID, Adam was doing 50 pushups and 50 sit-ups every morning. A few days after he started back at work he could do five pushups. Two weeks later 20 pushups. Not short of breath, just weak. He still couldn’t shoot around on a basketball court. It’s now three weeks later and things are pretty much back to normal. He’s going to try kayaking this weekend.
You know when the guy on the TV show gets shot and the doctor tells him he was lucky because if the bullet had been two inches to the left it would have killed him? I always thought that was dumb. If he was lucky the bullet would have been a foot to the right and it would have missed him completely. He just wasn’t as unlucky as he might have been. I feel like that about Adam. He never had to go to the hospital. He didn’t come close to being on a ventilator. He was lucky. But he was as sick as he’d ever been for three weeks. He says he’s recovered, but I think he still has a little farther to go. I’m pretty sure he’ll be fine with no long-term problems. He was lucky.
You know why I told you this story; I want you to wear your mask, keep social distancing, and washing your hands 20 times a day. You don’t want to be this sick. Even if it doesn’t kill you, you don’t want to get COVID-19. Maybe, even more, you don’t want to give it to your friends or bring it home to your family. So wear your mask, and when people talk about how difficult this is, maybe you’ll want to share Adam’s story. As I now end all of my email messages: Stay safe, stay positive, and stay in touch.
Dr. Alan Brody, author; Anthony Dandino, RT(MR) editor; Meredith Towbin, copyeditor.