On the road to recovery, he dedicated himself to helping others avoid a disease that "knocked the hell" out of him.
BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. – The first sign that Greg Foudy had been infected with coronavirus came in an unrelenting wave of chills that made him blast the heat in his Cresskill home until "it felt like an oven."
It was late on March 10 and Foudy's temperature had already risen above 102.
Over the next two weeks, the 65-year-old retiree would become as sick as he's ever been. With growing frustration, he and his wife navigated a complicated and fractured health system seeking help. And finally, on the road to recovery, he dedicated himself to helping others avoid a disease that "knocked the hell" out of him.
Coronavirus hits older people especially hard. Eight out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been among adults 65 and older, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while Foudy is at the youngest end of that demographic, he still counts himself lucky.
“I’m not dead, and each day is slightly better, so I can’t feel too bad for myself,” Foudy said with a chuckle.Retirement and recovery
The owner of a commercial refrigeration repair company, Foudy shut down his business in January after decades of servicing restaurants, bakeries and stores throughout New York.
He was just sinking into retired life when he became sick.
The fever that began on March 10 was not going away. Electric blankets, a raging radiator and copious amounts of Tylenol did only so much to manage his chills.
“I knew something was serious,” he said.
He suspected it was coronavirus, and he mentioned it when he spoke to his family doctor of 30 years by phone. The doctor told Foudy he might have the flu, but cautioned him from coming into the medical office or going to the hospital just yet.
Foudy considered himself in pretty good health but like many men his age took daily medications for blood pressure and cholesterol.
The aches and pains came next, followed by near-crippling fatigue. Taking a short walk to the hallway bathroom wiped him out.
“All the little things you do that you take for granted were lost,” he said. “Walking up and down the hallway felt like I was running a marathon.”
Foudy soon isolated himself from his wife, Dale Kopel, and their two grown children, by staying in a guest bedroom.
He often slept for more than 20 hours a day – a welcome respite from the aches, chills and uncontrollable cough that had developed.
“I felt like I’d rather be asleep than being awake and feeling that way,” he said. "Your brain kind of shuts down. I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it felt like my brain turned to mush. It was hard to concentrate on anything."
Foudy ate nothing for days. He only drank water. He ended up losing 23 pounds.
"This is not how you want to lose weight," he said. "Going from 165 to 142 pounds at my age is not what I wanted to do."
Foudy pressed his doctor to give him a prescription so he could get a coronavirus test. On March 18, he had his nose swabbed at a drive-up site in Englewood Health hospital's parking lot.
Foudy said he was told he would get the results in 24 hours.
It took 12 days – and came back positive.
"Of course it was," he said. "I thought it was obvious. It ran the classic course of COVID-19.”
By then Foudy had been feeling a lot better, even though he had a bout with bacterial pneumonia that antibiotics quickly cleared up.
"I was angry that it took so long to get tested and then get the results, but then I did a mental reboot and realized they’re trying to put out a fire with a Dixie cup,” Foudy said.
His wife was also frustrated that it took so long and questioned whether the lag time was giving the public an inaccurate account of how far infections had spread.
“The overall numbers are so off because people aren’t allowed to be tested, and there’s a huge lag in getting the results,” said Kopel.
Kopel said she felt mild flu-like symptoms for about two days. “I suspect I might have it, but I don’t know,” she said.
Foudy isn’t sure when he was infected, but he suspects it was at a dinner party about a week before his symptoms started. At least one other person at the dinner, attended by about 50, came down with symptoms.How recovered patients can fight the disease
Mount Sinai Health System in New York is appealing to those who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma to help those with severe cases.
Plasma from recovered patients is rich with antibodies that fight against the virus. The antibodies will be transfused into critically ill patients with the hope that they can neutralize the virus.
The procedure was used successfully in China, which reported that some patients improved within 24 hours, with reduced inflammation and viral loads, and better oxygen levels in the blood, a report by Mount Sinai researchers said.
Foudy says he wants to make a donation as soon as he can.
“I feel fortunate that I didn’t die or infect anyone else,” he said.
“I also was lucky," he said. "I had all my ducks lined up in a row when it came to closing my business and retiring. I didn’t have to worry about not having an income because I would have had to shut the business down. So I want to do everything I can to help those who may not be as fortunate."
Any recovered patient wishing to join the Mount Sinai effort can sign up here.
Follow Scott Fallon on Twitter: @newsfallon
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