Andrew Smith, the K-State journalism professor who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, shared in a Facebook video update Sunday that while he’s in the intensive care unit, and he’s battling the illness.
“I’m fighting hard,” he said. “I’m a fighter, so is my wife Jen and my two kids who are fighting through as well.”
Andrew had returned with his family from a study abroad trip to London, and they recognized that while they hadn’t yet shown the tell-tale symptoms of coronavirus infection, they didn’t want to risk spreading it in the community, said Andrew’s wife Jennifer. At the Kansas City International Airport, the family got into a waiting car, and when they hunkered down at home, they realized that their fatigue wasn’t going away.
“We were hopeful that our fatigue was from being super busy and being off our time schedule, eating differently,” said Jennifer Smith, Andrew’s wife. “We thought for a while that that’s what it was. We’re all in very good health, and we were all very, very cautious when we were traveling.”
Andrew developed a high fever and breathing problems, while the other family members suffered more mild fevers, fatigue and loss of appetite and thirst.
When they learned that someone they had associated with in London had tested for the virus, the family went to the emergency room, she said, where they were quickly isolated in a private room. Hospital staff in hazmat suits swabbed the Smiths and their two daughters, although Andrew was the only one whose test was sent in for infection confirmation. Andrew was admitted into the hospital, and he’s been battling the virus and bilateral pneumonia since Friday.
Jennifer said that while she and her daughters haven’t been confirmed to have the virus, she and her doctors are going forward under the assumption that they, too, were infected. They are now under quarantine at home.
“They’re never going to test us,” Jennifer said. “We did not have the breathing symptoms, but the doctors, when they talk to my husband, they also talk to us about our symptoms. They’re absolutely assuming we are all positive. They just are not going to send our tests in.”
At the hospital, Andrew is isolated in a separate room in the intensive care unit, on oxygen to help his lungs. Doctors and nurses treat him while wearing hazmat suits, and Jennifer said Andrew is receiving some of the newest medications from cutting-edge doctors.
“They’re taking as good care of him as they possibly can,” he said.
Jennifer last saw Andrew when he was admitted into the hospital, but she’s been able to Facetime him as he’s able.
On a video call with Andrew and his doctors Monday morning, the doctors said Andrew showed signs of improvement, Jennifer said. They planned to take him off of full-time oxygen Monday while making sure his lungs can handle the load, clearing him for a potential return home soon. But that also depends on a lot of factors, as Andrew steadily improves, Jennifer said.
“He’s been very positive, constantly reminding himself that he’s in good care,” she said. “Andrew’s personality, though — he’s a very optimistic fighter, that’s just who he is.”
Jennifer said that since she shared that her husband was Riley County’s confirmed case of coronavirus on Saturday, her family has received an overwhelming amount of support. (The Kansas Department of Environment and Health has since amended Smith’s case to Pottawatomie County since he lives in that county.)
Families in her neighborhood have brought by food, homemade bread and even cheesecake Sunday night, she said.
“The amount of responses we’ve received from the community have been just epic,” Jennifer said. “Basically every person we’ve ever met in our lives has reached out in the last 72 hours, telling us that they’re praying for us.”
Smith said she and Andrew went public with his story to help reassure the community that the family took every precaution they could to keep the community safe.
“Once the health department had shared that a 51-year-old man who had traveled abroad was the one who was identified with COVID-19, there were enough people who would know a little bit of information that would not be accurate,” Jennifer said. “We wanted everyone in the community to know how safe we had been when we returned, because we love this community, and we don’t want people to be afraid. There’s so much unknown about this virus, we felt it important to clarify we had gotten in the car and driven home. The only place we went was the ER, so we wanted the people in the community to know that we had been safe on their behalf.”
On Sunday afternoon’s Facebook update, Andrew said he understood others’s fear of the virus, but that it also marked an opportunity to practice kindness.
“I want to tell everyone that that fear and anxiety is real,” he said. “It’s okay to feel it, but understand that we’re all in this together. We’re a community.”
Jennifer echoed Andrew’s comments, saying that the best thing others can do to help out her family is to take the virus and containment measures seriously.
“Don’t assume because you’re in good health that this won’t affect you, because Andrew is in very good health,” she said. “If anyone wants to do anything for us, that’s what they can do. Take care of each other, be kind to each other at home. It’s hard when we’re all stuck and we don’t have our routines to find kindness, but that’s what we can all do for each other.”