The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 01, 2020 1:00 am


Survivor's story

Recovering COVID-19 patient details how local health care workers rallied

There are those who still maintain COVID-19 is not a major threat here. Jim Matthews, a Fort Wayne resident and business owner, one of the lucky ones who survived a bout with the coronavirus, is living proof they are wrong.

Matthews believes he caught the virus during a return trip from Las Vegas at the beginning of March. But for another 12 days or so, he didn't know anything was amiss.

On Thursday, March 12, Matthews, who owns Copy Solutions in Time Corners, felt a little feverish. He tried to take his temperature with a forehead thermometer strip, but kept getting different readings. Maybe he wasn't doing it right, the 64-year-old Matthews thought. Feeling fine that Friday, he met his daughter for lunch.

By the next day, Matthews said in a phone interview Monday, “I wasn't feeling real well. But, like an idiot, I still went out to dinner with some friends.”

That weekend, it became clear to him that “if you're not feeling well you just quarantine yourself,” he said. Just to be safe, Matthews decided to do just that. Saturday, March 14, “was the last time I saw anybody.”

The following week, one of Matthews' employees in a high-risk group quit out of worry over the virus, and his remaining employees were only able to keep the commercial printing and mailing business open part time. Matthews stayed home during business hours, but came in after closing to do the nightly books. Not wanting to spread whatever illness had struck him, and beginning to worry he had COVID-19, he sprayed down his work area and went home to bed, exhausted.

“I did not have any pain,” Matthews said. “The week I was home, I don't remember having any problems breathing. But I was sleeping 18 hours a day, so I knew something was wrong.”

His family doctor's office told him he didn't need to be tested. When he called the Lutheran Hospital hotline that Saturday, he said, he was told, “my cough wasn't bad enough and the scratchiness in my throat wasn't bad enough.”

But that was before Matthews looked at the health app on his cellphone, which includes a sensor for oxygen saturation. The app showed his oxygen level at 84%, Matthews said. Sunday morning, March 22, he called the hotline again and told them about the readings.

“They said, 'How soon can you be here?' ” When he arrived at Lutheran, things moved rapidly, Matthews said. A nurse with a mask met him at his car and ushered him inside; he was placed in a private room, where a doctor quickly ascertained that Matthews had pneumonia and started oxygen treatments. Matthews said he also received intravenous antibiotics because the doctors weren't sure whether his infection was bacterial, which responds to antibiotics, or viral.

“Everyone was positive and helpful throughout my stay,” Matthews said in an email. “Every time a nurse or doctor came in the room, they had a new gown, gloves, hairnet and face mask. As they left the room, everything came off and was placed in the trash. ... I was kept informed as to what was happening to me each step of the way.”

After testing him for influenza, the staff tested him for COVID-19, but told him the results wouldn't be available for several days.

Matthews improved rapidly and was discharged Friday. He was resting at home when the Allen County Health Department called Saturday to tell him the tests had come back positive for COVID-19.

Because it had been more than two weeks since his symptoms appeared, Matthews was told, he had passed the period when he was presumed to be contagious, and he is planning to go back to work next week.

Thankfully, none of those with whom Matthews came into contact before he self-quarantined is known to have caught the virus.

Before he talked with The Journal Gazette Monday, he received a call from one of his doctors who had treated him. “You were one of the lucky ones,” he told Matthews. 

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