6 months after getting Covid, Shelby town clerk still fights fatigue

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 20 September 2020 at 8:55 am

Darlene and Mike Rich battle lingering effects from virus

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Shelby Town Clerk Darlene Rich and her husband Mike stand in their home in Shelby six months after contracting Covid-19. The couple says they still aren’t back to normal.

MEDINA – It has been a little more than six months since Shelby Town Clerk Darlene Rich became Orleans County’s first confirmed case of Covid-19.

Three weeks later, her husband Mike was diagnosed with it.

Now, neither says they are back to normal, and continue to fight fatigue.

The Riches’ ordeal began March 10 when they left the Buffalo Niagara International Airport for a vacation in Florida. Two days later Darlene started coughing.

“That brought on an asthma attack and I started using an inhaler, but it didn’t help much,” Darlene said. “The news on Friday the 13th was all about Covid and its symptoms. Mike went and bought a thermometer and my temperature was 101.5. Then it became hard to breathe and we called the ER. I had a chest X-ray and the doctor said I had pneumonia in my right lung and had the symptoms of Covid, so on Monday he would send my results to the Health Department and I had to quarantine until then.”

The Riches let their motel know they had to stay in their room and they brought them breakfast. Darlene’s temperature the whole weekend was 104.5 and she took Tylenol and Motrin. Then the hospital called and said she tested positive for the virus. The Health Department gave them instructions and told them to stay there for now. For an entire week, Darlene ate very little and just wanted to sleep.

“I was scared. I figured I’d probably end up dying,” Darlene said.

The Riches thought back where they had been the first two days in Florida. They had been on a helicopter ride, and Give the Kids the World in Kissimmee, where they had been several times in the past with their son Mikey. They saw the paving stone they bought their son, who died in March 1997 at the age of 23. The had also taken an airboat ride with many other people. And they wanted to call everybody they had been in contact with to let them know. Several days later they received a gift basket thanking them for their consideration.

By the end of the week they had canceled their flight home and rented a car, and that Friday they started the drive home.

The trip was a nightmare.

First, Darlene was worried sick about Mike driving the entire way as she usually did a lot of the driving. All the stores were closed and the truck stops were barricaded. If one was open, they only had port-a-johns.

Mike had bought a cooler and made egg salad sandwiches. They ate them and apples on the way home.

While still in Florida, they had called the Orleans County Health Department, where they were connected with a nurse who made regular calls to the couple in Florida and continued to support them after they returned home.

They got home on a Sunday and on Monday and Tuesday the Health Department came and tested Darlene. Both tests were still positive.

Mike, in the meantime, was on pins and needles. The arthritis medication he takes compromises his immune system, and he figured if he caught the virus he would probably die.

Almost three weeks later, their worst fears came true when Mike tested positive.

“We both had a loss of appetite big time and awful exhaustion,” Darlene said. “Even now I go to work and come home and sit in the chair and fall asleep for an hour.”

Darlene went back to work the end of May, but was only able to work half days. Mike, who works for General Motors in Rochester, was able to go back the middle of June, but also still has a hard time with the fatigue.

Their doctors can’t assure them they will ever be totally over the effects.

In spite of it all, Darlene said they were both fortunate that they apparently had a light case.

“Nobody really knows anything about it,” she said. “We were lucky.”

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