Sometimes as a reporter, I hear a sense of urgency in people’s voices that compels me to dig in and report more of the story.
That was the case on July 10, when I listened in on two meetings featuring area doctors. It was apparent as they spoke they were gravely concerned about the rising number of Covid-19 case numbers in Monterey County, especially the increasing hospitalizations.
“This is sobering,” I told editor Sara Rubin afterward. Within minutes, we resolved to do a cover story on the situation local hospitals are facing, as featured in this week’s issue.
I wanted to share at least one patient’s story. I spoke at length to Brother Patrick Dunne, 75, the recently retired president of Palma School in Salinas. (He’s a Christian Brother, a Catholic order of men who take vows but are not ordained like priests.)
Dunne probably doesn’t like that I opened the story with him, and included a more detailed story on our blog. He was emphatic that it not be about him—he agreed to be interviewed and photographed only in hopes that sharing his story about his Covid-19 experience would help others.
And what a story it is. This is a man who had been getting in 10,000 steps a day every day for years by waking up between 3:30-4am and walking the streets of Salinas before going to work at Palma. He ate a healthy diet, oatmeal with berries for breakfast and a big salad at lunch every day. He had no underlying conditions that make Covid-19 dangerous for so many.
Then one day in early April, he couldn’t taste the raspberries in his oatmeal or smell the soap in the shower. At that time, loss of taste and smell weren’t yet recognized as symptoms of the virus.
Dunne regained both senses after a little over two weeks, but by late April he could barely breathe. On April 29 he drove himself to Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, and says that with every step from his car to the emergency room, it felt like his lungs were collapsing.
The good news is that Dunne spent only four nights at SVMH and was released to his home with an oxygen tank. He credits the staff at the hospital with helping him survive.
Dunne hopes that through his story people will understand better the seriousness of Covid-19 and the importance of following shelter-in-place and face covering orders.
Nearly every person I interviewed for this story said the same thing: That if we’re going to keep the hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients, we all have to keep doing what we’ve been told for months: stay at home; wear a mask when going out; practice physical distancing; wash your hands.
-Pam Marino, staff writer, firstname.lastname@example.org