NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: COVID-19 survivors.
Much of the media coverage is of those who are sick and dying. But the vast majority of patients recover. What’s their experience like? WORLD reporter Anna Johansen spoke with some former patients to find out.
ANDERSON: It did not cross my mind to not go to that event.
ANNA JOHANSEN: Ryan Anderson is an assistant pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville. On March 7th, he attended an event at his kids’ school. It was in the early days, before social distancing.
ANDERSON: I never once said, You know, maybe we should not go to this thing tonight because of that whole coronavirus floating around.
Three days later, he came down with symptoms.
At first, he thought he was just tired because he’s the father of three little kids and he was still adjusting to daylight savings. He never dreamed it was COVID-19.
ANDERSON: I guess, in the way back in my mind, in the science fiction world, or something like that, I guess it could have been the case but it would have not been on my top five list of things that I was thinking.
A friend suggested he get tested for COVID-19. The results came back: Positive.
Matt Fray is an assistant pastor at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas. In early March, he started to feel fatigued and a little achy. But he also didn’t think much of it.
FRAY: The symptoms that were being publicized at that point were a dry cough, which I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, and a fever and didn’t have a fever, really.
Then a coworker from the church texted him: She had the same kind of symptoms and she’d tested positive for COVID-19. Fray got tested: he also had the disease.
FRAY: So our county health department called me and spent like three hours on the phone with me documenting name, address, phone number, of every person I had been within 6 feet of for three weeks.
Ryan Anderson did the same thing. And so did Dick and Diane Steele. They had gone to New Orleans for their 44th wedding anniversary at the end of February. Diane came down with COVID-19 soon after.
DIANE STEELE: I had a runny nose and a really sore throat, really the worst sore throat I’ve ever had.
Diane was mostly concerned about her 10-year-old granddaughter. They’d sat close together the night Diane started to come down with symptoms.
DIANE STEELE: I was really worried that I’d given it to her, but she never came down with it. Actually no one that I was around ended up getting it. Except my husband.
Dick and Diane are both in their 70s, so they are considered high risk. But Dick says they were never fearful about the outcome.
DICK STEELE: For whatever reason, we just felt a peace throughout this. God has been good to us.
None of the people the Steeles came in contact with ever got COVID-19. No one on Matt Fray or Ryan Anderson’s lists got it from them, either.
They’ve been in self-quarantine ever since. Ryan Anderson stayed in a spare bedroom and had zero contact with his wife and kids.
ANDERSON: It felt like I was a prisoner in my home or the Count of Monte Cristo you know what I mean.
His wife would bring food and set it down outside the door.
ANDERSON: I’d hear her footsteps walk away and I’d open it, and get my food.
Every day, someone from the county health department would call to track his symptoms: Fever, fatigue, cough. Both Anderson and Fray lost their senses of smell and taste. Fray says that one was a little demoralizing.
FRAY: Because these kind friends have brought over warm chocolate chip cookies and there’s absolutely no point in eating it because I can’t taste. I might as well eat a carrot.
Anderson says he didn’t have enough energy to read for long, and he quickly got sick of watching movies and scrolling through social media.
ANDERSON: And so I just went to the window and looked outside.
He spent a lot of time staring out that window. But ironically, he says, there was a grace about it. He started thinking about Matthew chapter 6, when Jesus says, “Consider the birds of the air.” They neither reap, nor sow, but God takes care of them.
ANDERSON: And so it was this reminder of God’s care and provision for me as the cardinals were chirping and a robin would visit a tree outside of my window, as if to say, I’m gonna take care of you, Ryan. Don’t worry about your life.
Matt Fray has also spent a lot of time in quiet reflection.
FRAY: The fact that I tested positive and felt sick for 10 or 12 days is to me, not the most significant thing. The significant things are the things that endure beyond that 12 days.
He’s been reassessing what’s important and what kind of habits he wants to cultivate moving forward.
FRAY: One of the great things is just with extra time, we’ve renewed the practice of family devotions, because that’s something that’s like an aspirational value, for a lot of us, but just by virtue of being a pastor doesn’t mean it happens automatically.
Now, they have family devotions every day. Sometimes twice, if Fray can talk the kids into it. And though, for him, COVID-19 has come and gone, he hopes the slower pace of life is one side effect that sticks around.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.