Michael Bane was one of the first few Americans who was diagnosed with COVID-19 and contracted deadly symptoms from the virus.
The 42-year-old attorney survived the 18-day internal onslaught but is not nearly done recovering. Coming from a man who says he is “relatively healthy,” not immunocompromised, has no history of serious preexisting nor underlying health conditions, and is a seasoned marathon runner, he was shocked with the extent of damage the virus had dealt him.
“It just wore me down so badly I started to lose my will to try to fight it off,” he told NextShark.
His COVID-19 Timeline
In his original Facebook post, Bane wrote a comprehensive essay on the entire experience. He details the timeline from when the suspected first exposure occurred on March 3, and day one of the viral course from March 12, until he was finally admitted to the ER on March 21. The dreadful ordeal and symptoms are also documented in a six-minute audio recording with NPR.
He would then spend 10 days in Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, hooked to an oxygen tank to supplement his massively depleted oxygen levels while being treated for bilateral pneumonia and COVID-19. Bane was released from the hospital on March 30 but agreed with his nurse wife that even though the doctors had deemed him “safe” to be around, he decidedly isolated himself in their basement for 14 more days upon his return. The self-imposed quarantine ended on April 13.
Starting from March 3 and ending on April 13, that’s 41 days since his initial exposure until his self-quarantine release.
To give insight into how brief the exposure that may have landed him in the ER was: it was a few minutes of contact. On March 3, after a routine doctor’s appointment, he visited his wife’s workplace to give her flowers. A person at reception, who later tested positive for COVID-19, chatted for a bit. Neither party wore any facial coverings. Bane’s hands were on the desk and from his tendency to touch his face, his timeline pointed to this minor encounter as the catalyst.
COVID-19 is No Joke
“When I was at my worst in the hospital, I told my nurse I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
There was no rest for the weary. Bane would have to endure fevers that racked terrible pain and freezing cold throughout his back and legs. With no means of finding relief or getting comfortable outside of opioids and painkillers, it was unbearable.
“If it were for a short time it would have been bearable, but it was constant for almost two weeks and continued to get worse over my first five or six days after I was admitted. There was never any break from the pain or chills unless I was drugged,” he said.
The coughing was unrelenting, only for periods of medication, it was “dry, nonproductive, and also tiring because it wouldn’t let up,” which added to the discomfort.
There was also the excess anxiety on his mind in watching his oxygen levels drop as his lungs failed to take in proper breaths.
“The disease never let up, and eventually you find yourself unable to muster the strength to push on and just become resign to the fact that it’s either going to pass or you are. All you can do is wait and see. It was physically and emotionally draining and terrifying.”
Readjusting to Life After COVID-19
Bane has since been spending time with his wife and daughter, running errands out of the house. Although he feels “largely normal most of the time,” he admitted that “is painfully (literally and figuratively) obvious that my lungs are nowhere near recovered.”
X-rays of his lungs showed the pneumonia spread during his stay, with doctors who told him that assuming he didn’t suffer permanent damage, it would be a few months before his lungs are back at full capacity.
To test his functionality, as a runner, he tried to go for a run in late April. The first quarter-mile was good, at a slower pace than his usual.
“At about a half mile I became very winded. The struggle for air continued to get worse, and by three-quarters of a mile I felt like someone was trying to rip my left lung out through my back,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t have enough air, and the pain from breathing was excruciating.”
Bane has a Tough Mudder in August and a half marathon in September. He is doubtful whether he will be able to participate or if he would have to run at “a much slower pace than normal.”
There is also the factor of looming medical bills after his hospitalization. The COVID-19 survivor had 53 separate diagnostic tests, given numerous medications, hooked to supplemental oxygen, and spent a night in the ICU. While he believes his insurance is going to cover all of it, he estimates a total cost to be well over $100,000.
The rest of Bane’s immediate family and anyone that he has come into contact with hasn’t tested positive to his knowledge. Parts of the deadly virus may be in his system, and it’s because of that that donors are giving plasma, in hopes that the antibodies will aid in a cure.
What He Wished He’d Done
“I would have been following the current social distancing guidelines and largely staying away from people. I would have been avoiding public transportation and working from home,” he said. “My forays out into the world would have involved me wearing N95 masks.”
In Bane’s defense, at the time when he was compromised, there wasn’t public knowledge of proper precautionary measures.
“When I went to the hospital there were only 23,720 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and only 301 deaths,” he said.
Now just over a month later, America is still leading the entire world in reported COVID-19 cases and death, accounting for a little under a third of the world’s total at 1,211,213 out of 3,640,473, and 69,590 deaths out of 251,817.
Calling it “terrible and frightening,” and not wishing it on anyone, “my experience was also a rare one,” he added.
“I won’t say it was the single worse pain I ever felt, but it was definitely bad and it wouldn’t let up.”
A majority of coronavirus carriers can be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, according to NPR. Such as in the case of the infamous Diamond Princess cruise ship incident, reportedly 50% of those tested positive showed no symptoms and around 18% stayed asymptomatic.
Despite doctors reporting on the viral decimation on supplies and resources and the fear of infecting loved ones after returning home from the frontlines, there are still anti-lockdown protesters who belittle COVID-19’s severity.
“Take it seriously, but be thankful that we’re in a country that does have medical care and is addressing the issue. It may be longer than we like, but this won’t last forever,” he closed. “Our country and people have shown a great resilience in the past, and we will come back from this as well.”
All Images via Michael Bane