Maryland Department of Health
“Once I started coughing I couldn’t stop, sometimes for 40 or 45 minutes I would be going. It was exhausting.” ~ Ken Smith
Ken Smith, 50, underwent ankle surgery last February, and recovered at his Dunkirk home for six weeks without leaving, a month before anyone in Maryland had heard of a lockdown or pandemic.
He finally went out on March 18, with crutches and in a boot – and the next day became ill with what would turn out to be the second diagnosed case of COVID-19 in Calvert County.
“I walked to my mailbox and back, on crutches, and I noticed I was very out of breath,” said Ken. “I put it down to laying around for six weeks without putting weight on my leg, and didn’t think anything of it.”
By the following morning, however, Ken’s breathing problems had grown worse, although he had no fever. He decided to go to the hospital alone, and when he arrived at Calvert Memorial Hospital he realized the extent of his breathing issues.
“I could not even get across the parking lot. Hospital orderlies saw me and came and got me with a wheelchair,” Ken said.
He was admitted with pneumonia, and tested positive for COVID-19 the next morning.
Ken described the first 48 hours he was in the hospital as “devastating, with each 12 hours twice as bad as the previous 12 hours. I only had a fever once, but I was fighting for every breath. It was incredibly scary.”
He admitted he felt like he was going to die at one point, alone. “I was curled in a fetal position, and I could not talk. I could only take one breath at a time. I didn’t even have enough strength to talk to my wife on the phone.”
Then, as quickly as the symptoms came on and worsened, Ken plateaued and improved. Just four days after he was admitted to the hospital , Ken was home quarantining in his basement while slowly recovering.
Overall, he lost 35 pounds in just 9 days. “My breathing was horrible. People ask me if I lost my sense of smell and taste and I don’t even know – I was not interested in eating,” Ken said.
Ken said he is grateful that he got through the disease without lasting physical effects, and that his family – wife and three sons – did not get ill. He is also grateful for those who have reached out to him during this time.
“I do know this: this affects each person differently,” Ken said. “I know families where one person is in the hospital, and others in the same family are positive but have nothing going on, health-wise. You just cannot predict how your body will react.”