UNDER FURTHER REVEIW – The reality of Covid, and a Harbaugh classic

Hello again. I’m back after a month of dealing with Covid and its after-effects.

Now that I can speak from first-hand experience, I’m going to divert from sports to begin, so I can offer a few comments about the virus that has brought the world to its knees.

First, my context. I tested positive on November 2 and isolated for the next 12 days. My symptoms included an intermittent cough, a fever that ranged between 100 and 103, no taste and not much of an appetite (I lost 13 pounds.), and a total lack of strength and energy. (These aren’t everyone’s symptoms, though fever and cough apparently are quite common.)

On Monday, November 15, with trouble breathing, I was admitted to Sky Ridge Hospital in Lone Tree. Tests determined that I had blood clots in my lungs and left leg. (Clots, I learned, are a frequent Covid side-effect.) I hadn’t been prescribed any specific Covid-fighting medication while I isolated, and once in the hospital doctors there focused on fighting the blood clots and assisting my breathing.

After two overnights in Room 3306, I was sent home with oxygen 24/7 and blood thinner—self-administered shots of Lovenox in the belly twice a day at first, then Pradaxa orally, morning and night. My doctor says I could be off the oxygen before the end of December, but the blood thinner will continue at least until the end of January, probably for life. I temporarily lost hearing in my right ear, but it has returned. 

I think I’m finally turning the corner. When I asked the doc if I needed to get a booster shot, he replied: “You’ve just had yours,” referring to my bout of Covid and the natural immunity it would produce.  Maybe sometime next year, he added, if I still want one.

Having endured that ordeal, my first reaction to coverage of the pandemic is that no one quoted on television or in the newspapers as an “expert” has any real idea of what it’s like to get Covid or contend with what happens next, because they haven’t lived (and survived) it.

What I now realize is that all of the show hosts, pundits, politicians—and even the doctors—who pontificate about masks and social distancing and vaccines and travel bans view them only through a political lens. They’re all into criticizing another’s position while espousing the opposite, and placing blame for doing too much or not enough. 

If you listen closely, not one speaks with any actual knowledge about what it’s like to contract a real case of Covid, much less what can follow. That’s not even the point of their commentary. They talk about how Americans should live, or which policies their political leaders should adopt, instead of the consequences of any personal choices that result in infection.

The fact is, a real case of Covid can be a scary trip. It isn’t this bad for everyone, but it was for me, and it could have been worse. Twice during my illness—for the only times in my life—I thought I might die. It was terrifying.

My own attitude—before I came down with the virus—was that being vaccinated was better than not; that wearing a mask was a small inconvenience that was worth it if it protected me or anyone else; and that, in the end, each person had to decide for himself or herself what was right in their situation. 

Post-Covid, my thinking hasn’t changed. I now just add that if vaccination doesn’t prevent getting Covid, it might at least contribute to surviving it. 

So, my advice is to take symptoms seriously from the first hint, and to get tested at the first suspicion. Getting on it early is very important. And if you get it, be on the lookout for after-effects; they can kill you. Beyond that, live your life.

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EASING BACK INTO THE SPORTS REALM, Jim Harbaugh finally beating Ohio State and coaching Michigan into the CFP gives me the opportunity to retell my favorite Harbaugh story. As related by former CU All-America Jay Leeuwenburg in a book (Yes I Can! Yes You Can!) that Jay and I did back in 2005, this anecdote attests to Harbaugh’s competitive fire. Jay was playing center for the Indianapolis Colts in a playoff game against Pittsburg, and Harbaugh was the quarterback: 

 . . . . Chad Brown came off the corner and just annihilated Harbaugh, just killed him. We’re in the huddle, and Jim starts talking. But nobody can understand him. We said, ‘What the heck are you saying?’ He mumbles, ‘Hold on,’ and he pulls his two front teeth out of his mouth. He’s got blood streaming out of his mouth, and he couldn’t enunciate the words. He’d lost his teeth! He took his teeth, and he put them in his sock . . . 

Jim is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever known. He didn’t miss a play. . . .

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 13 books, seven of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.