My COVID Experience started over 11 months ago. I was at a Boy Scout event in Tulsa, OK from March 6-7, 2020. The following week 6 of us started to get really sick with ultimately 3 of us with positive diagnosis for COVID 19. Sadly, one died. He did have all the co-morbidities that COVID takes advantage of. Early on it came on like bronchitis, which I am prone to get because of environmental allergies, it is Oklahoma, windy and lots of pollen.
I worked for 2 days, saw a normal compliment of patients (around 30), wore a mask nonstop and took cough medicine. By the 3rd day my staff and, reluctantly, I knew something was not right as I had never felt that lousy in my life and apparently looked the part. They cleared my schedule for the first 2 hours of the day and kicked me out of the office. I went to my physician who tested me for flu, pneumonia and strep; all negative. He felt it was acting like COVID but since it was so new and they had no test yet we could not verify. He suggested I consider going home to which I did not argue. That was March 11, my staff did not see me again until March 23.
I have never been so sick in my life and missed more time sick from the office than I have the last 40 years combined. I really feel I got it much worse because I had Type A flu in the middle of February despite getting the flu vaccine in October 2019. My immune system was weak when I came into contact with the virus. The cough can only be described as violent. I actually pulled a groin muscle coughing. I had every symptom you have heard of except high temperature, nausea and vomiting. I slept 16-18 hour per day. I lost 21 pounds because of no appetite, no taste, and got severely dehydrated. I was not even interested in watching TV the first 7-10 days. I just tried to sit still, sleep elevated, not talk and take shallow breaths so as not to cough.
Finally, on March 17th I was contacted that tests had arrived. My wife drove me there within 15 minutes and I was the first one tested in Duncan. I could tell the nurse was terrified. She was dressed with every form of PPE you can think of short of an industrial hazmat suit and all I could see were her eyes behind a shield, goggles and glasses. It had taken about 10 minutes for them to come out to my car parked behind the clinic. As bad as I felt I still had a sense a humor. As I looked her eyes I said, “I am the first person you have tested, aren’t I?” With obvious trepidation in her voice, she replied yes. I then said “You’ve been inside watching the video on how to administer the test haven’t you?” Again, she answered a very shaky yes. To this I replied well this is my first time too, so be gentle, which got a nervous laugh and then she proceeded to stick that 3-foot nasal swab into my brain and twirl. It was all I could do to not sneeze or cough but by the Grace of God I kept it together.
Then we started another adventure which was the 11 day wait for the results to come back. By then I had already recovered, and gone back to my office on March 23rd (15 days after onset), where I could only see emergency patients. The governor had shut down hygiene and regular procedures. I was cleared to go back to work by my physician as I had exceeded all the CDC requirements for a health care worker to return to work from an infectious disease. That Friday, March 28th, things got interesting again as I got a call from the doctor’s office in Duncan and was positive for COVID 19. Remember the test was 11 days previous to this call and I had been exposed 3 weeks previously. The health department contacted me within 45 minutes of the first phone call. They asked a ton of questions and started contract tracing.
My wife and I went back to the office and printed off schedules for the days that I was in the office seeing patients and now know I was infected, marked off all of the information except name and phone number and faxed it to them. Friday evening, and Saturday morning they made contact with 30+ patients, my 6 staff members, my wife and my adult daughter who lives with us with her 2-year-old daughter.
Again, by the Grace of God not one person had gotten sick! We know how to practice Universal Precautions!
We continued to see emergencies only, do root canals and work on denture cases already in progress. I was very tired at the end of the day but motored through the days seeing patients fine.
The following week though the rumors started to fly around on Facebook that can only be described as bizarre. How it got out that I was positive was a bit of mystery because we were not telling anyone and the staff wasn’t either. Honestly, I was not sure how to handle telling people not wanting to create a panic. It is my first pandemic after all! The rumors ranged from I was seeing patients, knowingly contagious (not true), to I was in the hospital on my death bed on a ventilator. Needless to say, none of this was true. It was so bad that by Tuesday night I had scripted a letter, similar to this one, emailed and texted it to all my patients the next morning. As you would imagine the phone proceeded to explode off the wall almost immediately. At the end of the day, I returned calls to only about 4 patients who were relieved and thankful I had called them back.
That night I proceeded to publish the same letter on 2 local Facebook public pages that each have over 14,000 followers. I felt it was important to get way out in front of the storm. I had over 1,000 positive responses, texts, phone calls and emails and only 2 negatives! It was an amazing experience and a big relief. Our local hospital does a Facebook Live interview on health care topics every Friday and I was contacted to participate for the April 3rd edition. My physician and I did an hour interview without rehearsing and had a blast. He simply asked questions and I answered them about my experience with COVID. It just came across like a conversation. Again, it was very well received with over 1,000 positive responses and only 1 negative (there is always a least one!). I ended up in numerous chats over the next several weeks about COVID in various online forums and what to do to not get it, which I gladly participated in with the hopes of educating people about this terrible virus.
On April 6th I was contacted to do an immunity test and was positive for generalized immunity, IgG, IgM. Yeah!!
Then things got interesting again as 3 days later on April 9th I had a heart attack!! Fortunately, I was home as we did not have any emergency patients scheduled that day. This occurred 2½ weeks after I returned to the office from having had COVID-19. Ultimately, I was airlifted by helicopter to Oklahoma City where, the next day, I ended up having 1 stent placed. If you have been following the data, there are instances where if you are under 40 and get a bad case of COVID, you can have small blood clots and strokes. If you are over 60, and have a bad case you can end up with small blood clots and a heart attack. I was 61 at the time! I went home April 11th and felt great. I and my physician, who was the head of the COVID task force for our local hospital feel very strongly that COVID likely was a contributor to my heart attack. We were allowed to reopen our office to full-service treatment on May 4th in Oklahoma.
I returned to work, felt great and we have operated basically as if we never closed since then as most patients returned to the clinic. We have modified how patients come into the office, having them wait in their car when they arrive, then call them in when we are ready and then have them leave through the back door when finished as we do not want people to cross paths when possible. We are taking temperatures and provide them a mask when they arrive if they do not have one which is not very often. Hand sanitizer is at the front desk. Most people are pretty compliant wearing masks to prevent the spread. We are thin at hygiene recall like everyone else because of the COVID black hole for recall in our schedule since we were closed for hygiene essentially for about 2 months. We have been able to get new patients in quickly for a work up which has been a big plus. With time this will work itself out, but past that I am busy, feel great, and had an adventure that I would have just as soon not taken. I get my second vaccination shot in 4 days. I have never looked forward to a vaccination but I am this one!
After all I went through in 2020, I have come to the conclusion that God is not done with me yet. I’m not sure what he has in mind but I figure he will reveal it in good time. In the mean time I continue to let him work through my hands and do the good work I have grown to love over the last 22 years.
Dr. Rob Schick, Duncan, Oklahoma
I am 62, am a General Dentist and have been practicing for 22+ years, attending dental school at OU College of Dentistry (I'm a late bloomer), graduating in 1998. I am the 9th dentist in my family taking over for my dad who practiced 40 years, so our practice is a combined 62 years old. 2 more have graduated since me bring the current total to 11 family members in the profession of dentistry since 1915. I have been married to my wife Margaret 38 years and have 2 grown children. I am an Eagle Scout and am active as a volunteer, have raised freshwater tropical fish for nearly 50 years and enjoy all aspects of being outdoors.
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