Glacier High School Activities Director Mark Dennehy cuts an imposing figure on the sidelines of the football field, towering above the biggest prep linemen. His six-foot-two frame is sturdy, a byproduct of him spending every day in the weight room in adherence with his rigorous lifting and workout routine.
Then came COVID-19.
“I didn’t work out for three weeks,” Dennehy said. “I had no energy, just lots of fatigue.”
When he started his lifting regimen again, it took another four weeks before he felt like his stamina was returning to normal.
As a high school administrator, Dennehy had been dealing with the effects of COVID-19 since the pandemic first swept through Montana in late spring. Prep sports were suspended in March and officially canceled in April, denying hundreds of athletes the chance to compete.
Rather than entering the summer months fulfilled from guiding the Wolfpack athletes and coaches through the track, softball and tennis seasons, Dennehy was troubled by a sense of incompleteness and a big question mark of how fall activities could proceed during a pandemic.
Then in July, Dennehy, his wife Kim and his two kids Zach and McKayle were at the family’s cabin on Georgetown Lake, enjoying a much-needed vacation when the symptoms started.
Kim got them first — a fever and body aches — and went in for a novel coronavirus test the same day. Her positive results came back the next day, and then Zach fell ill. When Zach’s test came back positive as well, Mark got sick. He opted not to get tested but knew that he’d come down with the virus as well.
McKayle was the lucky member of the family who didn’t fall ill. When the three sick Dennehys returned to Kalispell to quarantine, she stayed at the Georgetown home to remove herself from the orbit of contagion.
“It started out feeling like the general flu,” Dennehy said. “All of us felt decent in the mornings, then come noon it would hit again with body aches and lots of fatigue.”
All three members of the family stayed home from their respective jobs — Kim is a pharmacist and Zach sells insurance — and followed the guidelines from the health department, going into a “total lockdown.” They relied on outside help, ordering groceries online and having neighbors pick them up and leave them on the doorstep. They also prayed they hadn’t accidentally infected anybody else.
Dennehy worked from home as much as possible, spending his mornings on Zoom calls, catching up on emails and getting paperwork in order, but around 1 p.m. his energy levels would crash and he had to take a nap.
“I have an Apple watch, and looking down and seeing my heart rate elevated 20-30 beats higher than normal was concerning,” Dennehy said, noting that the symptoms lasted much longer than he anticipated. “There’s so many stories. You just don’t know what you’re going to get hit with.”
The Dennehys were sick for more than a week before symptoms began to abate. Even then, it was more than a month before everyone felt like they’d returned to pre-COVID normality.
“It was a wake-up call to a lot of our folks,” Dennehy said. “They knew I’d been sick, a big guy who works out all the time, and it could hit any of us. You’ve just got to be careful.”
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