A Tyler man who has tested positive for the coronavirus wants to share some good news with the community and help alleviate concerns.
Doug Hill, 66, understands how people trying to self-isolate are feeling. Hill, a resident of The Stretford at the Cascades, has had to adjust to the reality of quarantine to keep his wife Catherine and neighbors safe. He said the real story is that of the community coming together to support one another.
“I wanted people to know it’s not a death sentence,” he said. “I wanted people to know that the way you survive the isolation is friends that support you, and when you live in a place like this community, the community also supports you.”
Hill said he was attending a wine club with friends from his community in early March when he was exposed to the virus. His experience though is far from what many would imagine. He was just sitting at a table with friends, no one was sick or symptomatic, and the couple who unknowingly had the virus had only traveled to Mexico.
Even though there was no apparent danger at the time, Hill said he and his wife had been taking the virus seriously and had precautions in place. Hill said that the shutdown of Wuhan, China, seemed important enough to make preparations. Wuhan has a population of 11 million people, larger than any U.S. city.
That one interaction was all it took. A few days later, Hill began to experience mild symptoms and immediately self isolated. In fact, he’s only had to use Mucinex and a nasal spray to manage symptoms.
“We had drinks and dinner, and that was the evening,” he said. “Then the following week, about four days later, I started having what I thought was allergy symptoms.”
He had a runny nose, sore throat, aches and fatigue, but when he began to run a fever, they suspected it wasn’t just allergies.
“I popped a fever of 100.7 and I said, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ My wife said we need to self isolate,” he said. “The trigger we were waiting for was shortness of breath, that’s when you go to the hospital, but I never had that. It really felt like an allergy (attack).”
When he found out his friends had tested positive for COVID-19 and been hospitalized, he had a telehealth visit with a Plano doctor but was told no test kits were available. It wouldn’t be until the next week until he could be tested in Plano. That test came back positive.
Hill decided the best course was to be as transparent as possible so his friends and neighbors could take every precaution. He sent text messages, emails and notified his building and Cascades club management. He gave them permission to notify others.
“At first I was nervous, I was so scared. It took five days to get a test and that was a scary time,” he said. “I got my test results, and then I had the certainty of, ‘OK, you’ve got it.’ So I decided to do the right thing for the community, which was to tell everybody.”
Hill said that decision has helped him deal with the stress and uncertainty of the situation and helped his friends through their own concerns.
“People are scared, they want to know who has it. When I sent the message out the most amazing thing happened — I got love and so much support,” he said. “I got hundreds of questions, people trying to figure out when was the last time I saw them.”
He and his wife also made some tough changes at home. Thanks to the preparation and supplies they had already taken care of, the couple was able to divide their condo in half, with plastic sheeting and “clean rooms” as buffer zones and a separate pantry. They have had the building’s concierge service deliver supplies outside their door.
“Literally what we did was kind of flip the house, we draped the area with a zipper that I can go through. I kind of stay there, and if I come out I have to have protection on, the mask and gloves on, because I don’t to pass anything to her,” Hill said. “It’s really been an interesting dance. She’s such a smart woman and she had this ready. We’ve lived it, and luckily her test came back negative.”
He said the building’s concierge service has been incredible, and that he recommends others in isolation to take advantage of delivery services to keep themselves and others safe.
Since Catherine tested negative, they will be just sticking to the routines that have become their new normal until he is cleared in the next few days. It’s been more than two weeks since his initial contact, and now they’re just waiting on an exit test to show he’s clear of the virus.
“My wife and I were very affectionate before this, but when I started having symptoms we separated (ourselves),” he said. “In the morning when I wake up, she comes out of her side into the living room and I come out of mine, and I look at her and open my arms and give her a big (air) hug and she gives me one back. We’ve had no physical contact now for more than two weeks.”
Hill said he’s looking forward to playing golf, but for now he spends time on his balcony waving and living vicariously through his friends on the course below.
“I can’t play, I don’t want to put anyone at risk,” he said. “What happens is, I yell down to my friends or they look up and wave and ask me how I’m doing. I’m kind of remotely supporting friends up here.”
He’s also finding new ways to spend time with his wife, their children and grandchildren thanks to technology, and said it’s a great tool others can use to get through self-isolation. Thanks to software, such as Zoom, they’re still able to attend the wine club.
“Use the technology and reach out to your family and friends, it’s so uplifting to talk to people. We have grandkids, we’ve been talking to them using the Zoom technology,” he said. “Even tonight we’re actually having wine club virtually. Everyone is self-isolating, they’re staying in their condos. Think about that. You’ve got a bunch of people, they’re all over 65 and they’re staying in their condos using technology to have a drink together.”
Even though there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world, Hill hopes he can show people that the way through it is with each other, in whatever form that takes.