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On a Thursday, July 23, the Veterans Administration had made an appointment for me to take the COVID-19 test at the Bennington Hospital. The following Saturday at 4:45 p.m. COVID struck me like a frozen snowball to the head while I driving my car in Manchester. I quickly drove home and put my car away and threw myself on the couch.

The next day I felt a little worse knowing that something “bad” was coming on. I tried to water my large vegetable garden that I planted to give away to the elderly, low income and disable folks.

The phone rang at 2 p.m. It was the Vermont Department of Health, saying “Hello and how are you? and your COVID test was positive!” I felt like saying “no kidding.”

For over 30 minutes, we discussed contact tracing and thankfully I hadn’t been around anyone in the past few days and concurred that I most likely didn’t spread it. We are not able to determine the source, even though I routinely wear a mask and gloves.

Within a few minutes of hanging up, a VA nurse from the ER at White River Junction, called and inquiring how I was and if I needed emergency care.

I replied, “No, I want this virus to run its course while I stay at home alone.” The nurse said that the Bennington VA Health Clinic, doctor and nurse would be calling twice per day for the next few days.

Monday, my head was pounding like it was in a pressure cooker. I felt a low-grade fever with blood pressure and heart rate erratic.

By Tuesday, my existing symptoms had worsened while new ones appeared. Nausea, low blood pressure, low oxygen levels, difficulty breathing and exhaustion that lingered like a curse.

After the check in call on Tuesday afternoon, the VA wanted to send an ambulance for me.

At 4:35 p.m. I called them back and said “I’m ready to go,” I then packed up a few items and they called me back 10 minutes later informing me that the ambulance was on its way.

Not wanting the EMTs to come inside my home for possible contamination, I sat in a chair outside with all my PPE on waiting for them to show up. I was outside for over three hours waiting. I didn’t want to tie up my phone line by calling the afterhours VA call center to tell them something was wrong with the ambulance, so I waited.

After this, I was so tired and felt so lousy I dragged myself back inside and went to bed.

What happened to the VA’s call for an ambulance and why the ambulance company cancelled the call is under investigation internally and legally.

The VA called the ambulance again Wednesday morning, arriving at my home 17 hours after the first call.

By that time, I was so sick I could hardly walk and think, with the ambulance driver calling out from a distance that I was the first COVID person to be picked up and he was taking me to the Rutland hospital and that he would get me there very quickly and that is what the driver did.

The wheels of the ambulance didn’t touch down until Allen Street next to the hospital in Rutland.

The crew did an excellent job of taking my pulse and flying to the hospital. After they wheeled me in, the ambulance was taken out of service for about two hours for cleaning and airing at the hospital.

After looking me over, the ER COVID doctor was relieved I had finally come in, given my condition.

Once admitted, I was in ICU for five days and on oxygen for three of them.

They gave me daily infusions of Remdesivir, an experimental treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and dexamethasone, a steroid for breathing.

My conviction is that both of these treatments have saved my life. A million thanks to the COVID medical teams at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

And no, Trump, I was not given diluted bleach or Hydroxychloroquine.

I was on a two-week quarantine after I returned home, and I am indebted to the two people who went grocery shopping and checked my mail for me.

Unfortunately, the virus has damaged the squeezing of my heart and possibly a little havoc in my lungs. This landed me in a second time in ICU at the VA hospital.

On Sept. 28, I was cleared by the Red Cross to give convalescent plasma, a 50-minute procedure. This plasma contains my anti-bodies that fought off COVID-19 and can help other patients recover. It can be donated every seven days.

I realize how painful and unknown the virus is and I want to help save as many lives as I can.

All I can say is protect yourself and others, wear a mask. Remember, you can’t catch COVID-19 over the phone.

Garry DuFour is a resident of Rupert and a volunteer who creates community programs and gives his time to a wide variety of community groups and organizations in the Northshire.


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