SUMMIT, NJ -- John Baker, a 55-year-old professional who lives in Summit and works in Manhattan, recently recovered from the COVID-19 coronavirus.
His case was moderate, and he did not require hospitalization, but his girlfriend, who lives in Manhattan, spent four days in the hospital with viral pneumonia.
"My first symptoms appeared on Wednesday, March 11, when I was staying in New York City with my girlfriend," Baker recounted. "My girlfriend started showing symptoms the day before and also tested positive for COVID-19."
Baker described the symptoms he experienced at the onset of the illness.
"My first symptoms were like the flu: fever -- hit a high of 101.9 -- body aches, chills and headache," Baker said. "Then a slight, dry cough developed the next day. The fever and body aches broke about three days later, leaving me with significant nasal congestion and fatigue for another couple of days. I started feeling better probably a week from the start of my symptoms."
COVID-19 has been shown to strike different victims with widely varying levels of severity. Baker's girlfriend experienced a worse case than he did, and she is still recovering. He referred to himself as "one of the lucky ones," in the supposed 80 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases that experience more mild symptoms.
"My girlfriend developed viral pneumonia and was hospitalized at Mt. Sinai in NYC for four days," Baker said. "She was discharged last Saturday and has been home recuperating since. (Sunday) was my first day out of quarantine, per doctor's direction (seven days symptom-free and/or two weeks from the date of my viral test)."
Baker said his girlfriend was able to get into see a doctor at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York that Friday, March 13. They both were tested for the flu panel and the COVID-19.
"Two days later, they called and said the flu panel was negative. Her symptoms got worse and she went into hospital on Tuesday, March 17," said Baker, who at that point still had not received the results of his COVID-19 test. "It took me five days to get my result. Almost a full week."
Since then, a faster, point-of-care test has been developed and is being rolled out. The newer test is designed to give a result in just 15 minutes, rather than the five-day wait Baker and so many others have endured.
"My girlfriend was in the hospital from Tueday to Saturday (March 21)," Baker said. "Her respiratory distress was greater than mine. She had labored breathing, a significant cough, and her fever did not break as soon as mine did. She had it for 10 days."
Baker said that while he was not prescribed any treatment, his girlfriend was.
"She went on the malarial drug (hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin), she just got off that," Baker said. "It was a 10-day regimen. Improvement has been very slow for her. She is just starting to show improvement now. There were some significant side effects to the medication that made her very sick. She is out of hospital and is home recuperating."
Baker relocated back to his Summit home and his staying there now. His adult son lives with him and has not caught the virus. Baker had been commuting to the city for his job, taking public transportation every day.
"For me, the beginning stages were very much like the flu," Baker said. "I had no sore throat, a mild cough, not extreme. It moved in stages, then when my fever broke, and it reached the sinus phase, I could not smell or taste. I was congested for at least four days with that, and then I experienced a lot of fatigue. I slept a lot. I have had the flu, and there were a lot of similarities.
Asked what advice he would offer to someone else stricken with the coronavirus, he stressed the remedy of rest.
"The thing for me was to rest. I'd get a little bit better and then I was still tired," he said. "The symptoms were moving through me pretty quickly, but the constant was that I was very tired and needed a lot of rest. This thing progresses through different stages. I was giving myself permission to sleep a lot. That helped me out."
Baker called himself "very grateful" that his virus, which has claimed more lives in New York than in any other state as of March 31, was not more severe.
"I’m one of the lucky ones, I was able to manage through it," Baker said. "Maybe on Day 2, when the fever and aches were severe, was when I was a little frightened, but given that this thing was exploding, I was worried about it developing."
COVID-19 has created a level of almost unmatched anxiety across the country, a situation Baker addressed.
"The mental aspect of this is worth talking about; the fear that is being created in people," Baker said. "But every individual is unique. The rest factor is huge. This is not something you push through. You have to listen to your body. It took at least a week for the fatigue to start to lessen. The constant was that I was tired. I definitely drank a lot of water, I did that. The doctor's direction was very vague. My appetite was much lower, especially when I couldn’t smell. My appetite only came back over last couple days. People say I look thinner, so I have probably lost weight."
Baker said that he will be signing up for plasma donations to provide assistance for COVID-19 patients who will undergo plasma therapy.