Over the phone Monday morning, Chehalis City Councilor Chad Taylor was in good spirits, though sounding a bit congested. Every few minutes though, a deep, rattling cough punctuated the conversation.
“The breathing is the worst (part),” he said.
Taylor, 42, spent the weekend at Providence Centralia Hospital after being rushed to the emergency room Friday when his blood-oxygen level fell to dangerously low levels two days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“We see the reports that come out from the county and we see cases increase … but I don’t think we really understand,” Taylor told The Chronicle Monday morning during a phone interview.
From Friday through Sunday, 66 new cases of COVID-19 were announced. Taylor said he, like many other people, didn’t think he’d be one of the people to get sick.
“I was one of those people too,” he said. “I’ve been social distancing, I wear my mask most of the time.”
Taylor was exposed last week and tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, a few days after his wife, Coralee, also tested positive. She’s been symptomatic as well, he said, but has been quarantining at home.
“She’s so tough,” he said.
Taylor said his family doctor immediately prescribed him the steroid Prednisone, due to his preexisting condition — Parkinson’s disease.
He started quarantining at home, but despite the early treatment, said symptoms came on strong.
“I got really cold on Friday night, I thought it was just chills,” Taylor said. “I went in the hot tub to try to get my body warm. I got out and I … felt really weird.”
The next thing he remembers clearly is being in the emergency department at Providence Centralia Hospital. He learned later that he’d passed out, and that his family called an ambulance to get him to the hospital.
“They ended up taking me out on a stretcher,” he said.
At the hospital, medical staff learned his blood-oxygen level was in the high 80s. A normal blood-oxygen percentage is between 95 and 100 percent.
“That’s not good,” he said. “My wife was really adamant with them not to put me on a ventilator. … They ended up giving me a lot of oxygen.”
His chest x-ray confirmed the diagnosis of severe COVID-19 symptoms.
“It’s all white,” he said.
In addition to the oxygen treatment, Taylor is on IV drugs including Dexamethasone, a steroid commonly being prescribed to COVID-19 patients, and Remdesivir, an experimental treatment approved by the FDA in late October to treat COVID-19.
“The great news is Providence is part of a very large health care system, so Providence Centralia gets the same priority as any other hospital … as far as bringing the care and the treatments,” said Dr. Kevin Caserta, chief medical officer for Providence Medical Group Southwest Washington, which oversees St. Peter Hospital in Olympia and Providence Centralia Hospital.
As of Monday, Taylor was still at Providence Centralia, and said he’d likely be there for another five days while receiving care and medication.
Taylor said he chose to come forward about his diagnosis and his experiences to help put a human face to a pandemic often reported on through statistics and second-hand observations.
“I thought this is important,” he said. “All we do is we see the numbers from Lewis County, but we need to humanize it.”
Lewis County has had 1,056 cases of COVID-19 since March and 14 deaths, 10 of which have occurred in the past two months.
Caserta said Monday that there are about 30 people hospitalized for COVID-19 between the two hospitals. Meanwhile, cases are spiking throughout the region. The hospitals have seen spikes in virus activity after past holidays, traditional gatherings, and even after election day, and staff is worried about what Thanksgiving will bring, he said.
“Frankly we’re concerned that if people are not safe, they’re not masking, they’re getting together with people outside their household for Thanksgiving … we could see a significant surge of COVID-19,” Caserta said. “I don’t think we can mention enough our healthcare workers are working really hard right now. They have a heart of service and they’re pushing sometimes the physical limits of how much they can give.”
Taylor praised the care he’s gotten at Providence Centralia, and the hospital’s protocols to avoid spreading the illness.
Staff treating him all wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) including double face masks, double gloves and face shields, he said.
“I’m in this … it’s an isolation room,” he said. “I was in the ER for a while and I was in an isolation room when they brought me in by the ambulance. That was a weird experience. I don’t remember being in the ambulance.”
Caserta said the hospital rooms for COVID-19 patients have some differences from other rooms, including more fully stocked cupboards so medical providers don’t have to go in and out, minimizing the risk of spreading the infection. Patients can talk with providers over the phone, and if they don’t have a tablet to speak with family over video chats, the hospital will loan them an iPad, he said.
“We always spend a lot of time cleaning rooms between patients,” Caserta added. “Outside of the general recommended cleaning we actually use ultraviolet disinfection after every COVID patient. … That’s worked really well even outside COVID-19.”
The process has helped decrease other serious infections at the hospital as well, he said.
While Taylor has been seriously ill, his son Franklin Taylor, 22, has also tested positive, but has so far not had symptoms.
“We’re just taking this quarantine serious,” Franklin Taylor said. “It puts it in perspective that someone who could have health conditions like my dad that it affects them more drastically. It made us worry more about who you know who gets it.”
Taylor said it’s difficult for him to not think about work while he’s in the hospital, but said many of his clients at the Silver Agency have reached out to wish him well. In the meantime, he’s urging everyone to take the virus seriously, wear a mask and keep up social distancing.
“We don’t know, there might be some long lasting effects after you have this,” he said.