After recovering from COVID-19, Kokomo engineer Gerard Kelley was thankful to have only suffered what he considered to be a mild case of the virus.
In mid-March, Kelley’s employer, Aptiv, decided to have all employees who could work from home do so after Howard County implemented travel restrictions, and cases of COVID-19 began to rise locally. Kelley began working from home on Monday, March 23, and by Friday, March 27, he wasn’t feeling well.
“I was working in the room in the house, and I feel kind of chilly. I said, ‘Hm, sure feels like I have a fever. So I went and took my temperature, and it was 102.5,” said Kelley, 62. “So then you wonder, ‘OK, what is it?’ It might be this (COVID-19) because it’s going around.”
Thinking it could possibly be the virus, Kelley followed instructions that were given at the time to self-quarantine. At that time, testing for the general population wasn’t being encouraged, nor was going to the doctor as long as symptoms stayed mild.
Kelley decided to take over the master bedroom in the house he shared with his wife and wait it out.
His symptoms started with a fever, a slight headache, and some aches and pains. After those seemed to subside, he lost his appetite. His wife had been bringing meals to the door regularly, and he asked her to not bring as much. That lasted for about four days, he said.
He said the symptoms felt like they “moved down.” Next, he developed a sore throat, and then he felt his lungs start to become affected.
“I had some wheezing. You could feel crackling down there in the lungs when you’re breathing, so you knew there was fluid down there,” he said. “You basically think and wonder whether things are going to get worse or if it’s going to get better, what’s going to happen at night, that kind of stuff. Am I going to have breathing problems?”
By now, nearly three weeks in, Kelley also had a sinus infection, which made breathing difficult anyway. He said his nose ran nonstop, and he was going through a box of tissues a day.
With his symptoms now in his lungs, Kelley’s wife called the doctor, unbeknown to him, as she was worried about him. A few days later, on April 20, Kelley got a phone call from his doctor’s office.
The nurse asked Kelley questions about his symptoms and asked him if he would be able to leave to get tested. He obliged and drove to a tent that was set up outside of American Health Network. He immediately tested positive in influenza B, but the COVID-19 swab had to be sent away for testing. He returned home, and on April 22 he received the news he already knew: he had COVID-19.
“It was like, ‘How in the world do I have both?’" he said. “I wouldn’t have expected to catch it because I really wasn’t associated with a lot of people.”
Kelley was prescribed antibiotics, and he continued self-isolating in the master bedroom. He said the antibiotics seemed to clear up his sinus infection, and most of his other symptoms had resolved by then, now nearly four weeks after the onset of his initial symptoms.
He finally started feeling better, but he stayed isolated just a little while longer to be safe. Then, at the beginning of May, he finally felt comfortable leaving the upstairs bedroom and visiting with his wife. She never developed any symptoms, Kelley said.
Over those weeks, he lost 15 pounds.
Kelley was contacted by the Howard County Health Department to see if he had been around anyone and again to see if his symptoms had subsided.
Looking back, Kelley said he wasn’t sure how he contracted the virus. He’d been working, but he didn’t hear of anyone else he knew catching the virus at any point, and he’d been cautious, he said.
“I have no idea where I might have gotten it because, the whole week before, I was working from home, and I wasn’t going out. I took a walk around the subdivision one day, basically stayed away from everybody,” he said. “So it’s kind of like I have no idea where I might have gotten it from, just one of those things.”
Now, Kelley has returned to some of his regular activities, like golf, but he’s still being cautious. He hasn’t eaten inside a restaurant, and he does pick-up sparingly, though he and his wife are starting to do that a little more.
He said he’s in relatively good health and was thankful he didn’t suffer worse symptoms.
“You don’t know how your body is going to react to the virus, and you don’t know if you’re going to be one of those that had minor symptoms or if you’re going to go off the deep end with the severe symptoms and get on the ventilator,” he said. “It’s more or less how your body reacts to the virus, and so I’m very thankful that I guess I got more of a mild case.”
Kelley encouraged people to continue practicing social distancing and to wear masks in public.
“There are people out there that don’t want to wear [masks]. They don’t want to be bothered. They think, ‘I’m not going to get it. It’s not that many people. I’m not in an at-risk group.’ So they’re more thinking about themselves, and they’re not thinking about if they get it and pass it onto somebody else. And then it’s the somebody else that’s in the risk group that ends up dying from it,” Kelley said.