A first-person account of COVID


By Ryan Kephart

On Monday about four weeks ago, I was having a really good day – slept well, went to work early, having a good day at work. About 11 a.m., I started coughing, and my neck was aching terribly. I put my mask on and decided to avoid other folks for the rest of the day. By 2 p.m., I was coughing a lot. 

By 4 p.m., I could not hold my head up and was getting violently ill. I told my boss, plant manager and HR rep that I either had the flu or Covid , and they got me out of there quickly. They also sent everybody I had contact with home for testing and scrubbed/isolated my work area. Next morning, I went to the Cherokee County Health Department to get tested, but it would take four days to find out the results. By then it was getting real bad. Chills, sweats, nausea, dehydration, fever, shortness of breath, etc., but I convinced myself I would get through it, just like other folks. 

By Monday, I was convinced I was going to die.

Sat in the car at Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital for 4-5 hours waiting to check in – a lot of other folks were there, too – and I actually hit an ICU bed at midnight. X-rays showed I already had pneumonia in my left lung, and they took what seemed like 50 vials of blood. Hooked up to many monitors and IVs. 

If I had waited one more day, it would have been a ventilator. Two more days, and it would have been a funeral. 

Every breath seemed like it would be my last. A real struggle to just breathe. They had me lay on my sides and stomach to drain the phlegm out, I didn’t lay on my back again until Saturday. 

Every time my oxygen intake got low, wonderful nurses were banging on the window, encouraging me to breathe more. My blood got so low they had difficulty taking new samples, and I wound up getting 22 shots for blood clots in my stomach. Remisivir was used for 5-6 days to push the disease out of me. I still did not want to eat, but forced every bite down to gain strength. 

I asked every day if more or less folks were admitted with this, but they always told me the same thing – five people. I find out later this was not always true, but it helped keep my spirits up. I know now some did not survive. 

Eleven days later, I was at home selfmedicating but on oxygen, too. Lightheaded, stumbling, quickly exhausted, rapid pulse and often a feeling of helplessness – even now, 10 days after coming home. 

I have no idea when I’ll be strong enough to just walk in to work, let alone make it there a day or a week. 

Folks, this Covid -19 is real. It wants to kill you. It doesn’t care. 

I did hand washing, wore the mask, avoided people and stores as much as possible – and it still got me. It may be inconvenient but don’t just think about yourself. You may be a carrier who infects someone with a weaker immune system.

Back when we all got polio shots as kids, we did it not just for ourselves but others, too. I tested negative Monday, so maybe I can pull on out of this. You may not be so blessed if you wait too long or don’t take it seriously if you get symptoms. 

Be a good citizen. Play it safe. 

Ryan Kephart is a resident of Murphy.