After days of intense head and body aches, fever, fatigue and generally “feeling terrible,” James Haring wasn’t surprised when his COVID-19 test came back positive. But the worst was yet to come.
In the following days, his shortness of breath and overall condition worsened to the point where he couldn’t make it to the bathroom in his house. His head was foggy; he “wasn’t thinking straight, kind of confused.”
“I couldn’t breathe,” Haring, a 55-year-old software engineer in Kalispell, said. “When I laid down, my brain went into panic mode basically. You’re just scared when you can’t breathe.”
Haring’s wife took him to the emergency room, where he was wheelchaired inside and discovered he had low blood oxygen levels. He was immediately transferred to Kalispell Regional Healthcare’s dedicated COVID unit, where he was hooked up to oxygen and given the first dose of what would be four straight days of intravenous Remdesivir.
Through the treatment and oxygen, Haring stabilized and was released from the hospital, but his cough is lingering a month after infection. He notes that he’s “always been pretty healthy,” with no underlying conditions, and he said he had taken health precautions seriously: mask wearing, social distancing, the whole bit.
That is, until he decided to watch a ballgame at a local bar with two buddies. All three later tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which coincided with the bar announcing it was temporarily shutting down due to an employee with a positive case.
“Thinking back at the decision process, it was, ‘Well, this is kind of a tradition we have, let’s just follow it,’” he said of watching Monday Night Football with his friends. “None of the three of us thought about, I guess, ‘Was this the safe thing to do?’”
“One bad decision,” he added. “That’s all it takes.”
Haring is thankful he didn’t infect anybody else, including his wife, who was out of town for the most contagious period of his pre-hospital sickness. For the rest of it, he holed up downstairs while she took refuge upstairs.
On Oct. 15, a month after his initial infection, Haring was “finally at the point I can walk indefinitely” without stopping to take a breath. He hopes his story reminds others of the disease’s unpredictability: “You might only get sick for a day, but there’s a whole spectrum.” The severity of his illness demonstrates that spectrum’s volatility.
“What I would say is, take this seriously, because if you do get COVID, you don’t know what the outcome is going to be,” he said. “You’re rolling the dice. You don’t really know what’s going to happen. You don’t want to go through what I went through. Do everything you can to avoid this.”
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