When I went to the doctor last Thursday expecting to be told my allergies were acting up, I really should not have been surprised about what the test told me. After a year of avoiding COVID-19, I was diagnosed with the disease. It should not have been surprised; after all, we remain in a global pandemic and I dropped my guard once too often.

I had just gotten my first dose of the vaccine the day before and believed I was doing everything right to protect myself. The doctor assured me that it was not a “false positive” from the vaccination, and that the shot could not have given me COVID-19. The reality is that I picked up COVID-19 by being around others, no matter how safe I tried to be.

After the diagnosis, I got in my car and drove back home calling everyone I could remember having been around during the past week to let them know. Like so many, I endured the “instant regrets” for the few things I had done earlier in the week, even while masking up and keeping a safe distance from others. I worried I might have made someone else sick. I had to do my own “contact tracing” as no government official contacted me to do it.

A friend made a run to the grocery store to ensure I had supplies for a week. My neighbor loaned me his oximeter so I could check my oxygen levels. By Thursday night, symptoms got worse. As I went to bed, I took some nighttime cold medicine since it felt like a mild case of the flu.

On Friday, I awoke feeling no better. As the day progressed, I could tell I was getting worse. The doctor mentioned a new antibody-based treatment for COVID-19. Bamlanivimab, also known as the “BAM infusion,” is made up of monoclonal antibodies, or synthetic antibodies that block the virus and prevent it from infecting cells.

It is an IV infusion that takes about ninety minutes to complete. The drugs are not FDA-approved, but they have received an emergency use authorization to treat early-stage COVID-positive patients. I decided to take the treatment when the hospital called to offer it.

After the treatment, I went home and stayed in bed with growing congestion and an increasing fever. At the worst point in the evening, my fever approached 103° and my oxygen level was down to 92 (safe levels are 95 to 100, and you start oxygen treatment if you drop beneath 90).

Around 3 a.m., my temperature and oxygen levels began to improve, and I started breathing easier. If I had not received that treatment, I honestly do not know if I would have made it through the night without going to the emergency room.

I am very thankful for the quick action by the SSM Urgent Care clinic where I first received assistance and for their referral for the BAM infusion at Saint Anthony’s. As the weekend passed, I felt better, but as I write this I am certainly still not well.

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” as Yogi Berra said. This pandemic “ain’t over.” While we should be optimistic, I witnessed firsthand that this pandemic is not yet over, and it does not hit everyone mildly.

Please take COVID-19 seriously and do not let your guard down. With Texas lifting their mask mandate, I fear that many Oklahomans will also be lulled to a false sense of security. I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones to have survived COVID-19 unlike so many of our friends and neighbors.

Joe Dorman is the CEO –

OK Institute for Child Advocacy

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