TUPELO • One north Mississippi family got a much closer look at the coronavirus than they wanted.
The husband, wife and a son from DeSoto County all tested positive for COVID-19, but each had different levels of the illness. The husband also had two strains of the flu and ended up hospitalized for five days. The wife only had mild symptoms. She and the son, who had no symptoms, self-quarantined at home.
The father, who asked not to be identified by name because of his job, is an average 53-year-old. He has to pass two physicals a year for his job and does light exercises. He admits he carries “a little more around the belt than I should, but I am in good health.”
The family’s world started turning upside down March 10 when the father started showing signs of the flu – headache and fever. Two trips to medical clinics five days apart showed he had two strains of the flu. A chest x-ray showed early signs of pneumonia. But instead of improving, his health steadily declined.
With the coronavirus being reported in DeSoto County and across the state line in Memphis, the family was reticent to go to the hospital. After 10 days of headaches, severe coughing spells that led to dry heaves and lack of sleep, it was low oxygen levels that made him decide to go to the hospital.
“I knew the pneumonia was taking hold,” he said. “I was trying hard to breath and knew it was time to go to the hospital. The pneumonia was the reason they admitted me.”
But the flu and pneumonia wasn’t why they kept him.
“They tested him immediately, took a culture and did an x-ray,” his wife said. “Before long, the doctor came out and said she was worried about the x-ray. She said he was being admitted and I needed to go quarantine myself.”
The test showed he did have COVID-19, forcing the wife and their 18-year-old son to be tested. While she was self-quarantined at home, the husband was in isolation at the hospital.
“They did a fantastic job taking care of him and understanding how I felt,” she said.
She tried to get friends who are nurses to go by and check on him. The hospital wouldn’t let them anywhere near him.
“That was actually reassuring,” she said. “They were treating it seriously. He had his cell phone in the room so I was able to talk to him. And the nurses carried a portable phone on their cart so I had access to the nursing staff 24-7. And they encouraged us to call.”
In the hospital, doctors put the husband on oxygen and started him on a malaria drug that has shown promise.
“I started to feel better, like I had stabilized,” he said. “If I wasn’t asleep, I tried to get up and sit in a chair to keep fluids (in my lungs) from collecting.”
With the improvements, doctors started weaning him off the oxygen. After five days in the hospital, doctors felt he was strong enough to go home. It was 14 days since he first had symptoms of the flu.
“That first day home, I felt about the same but I got my first good night’s sleep in two weeks,” he said. “Wednesday night, I had another good night ‘s sleep and woke up without a headache. For me, it was more headaches and strain down my back. That was gone when I got up (Thursday).”
He is unable to say which of his symptoms were caused by the flu and which were cause by the coronavirus.
The son, while positive for the virus, has not had any symptoms. The wife has only had a mild case of the illness.
“I don’t feel bad,” she said. “My temperature hasn’t been above 99. If I didn’t know about COVID, I would be going back to work because I’m not really showing any signs.”
The family is uncertain how they contracted the disease. No one had been out of the country or exposed to anyone they knew who had the virus. But since they have had COVID-19, they are now immune for this year.
Despite their immunity, they plan on waiting a while before going out and interacting with the public. For them, the experience was a teachable moment.
After the husband was admitted to the hospital, the son went to visit an older sister. He wore a mask because of the possible flu exposure. Once it was confirmed COVID was in the house, the daughter and all her friends had to be quarantined for 14 days.
“Her test came back negative which was a great relief,” the wife said. “The idea of social distancing was brought home for us. All it takes is one compromised immune system not to fight for the COVID to take over.
“It’s very scary and people need to take it seriously.”
Now that he is on the road to recovery, the husband said the experience has made him want to redouble his efforts to exercise more. It’s not about muscles or vanity. For him, it’s about making sure he is healthy enough to handle life’s next challenge to be there for his family.
“I have children I want to be there for and hope to have grandchildren,” he said. “I want to there hauling the grandkids through the woods, going to school events or ball games.
“You can either be a blessing or a burden. I want to be a blessing. I don’t want to be the sick guy in the stands. I want to be the one cheering the loudest.”