He Was Never Tested. His Family Lived In Fear Of The Coronavirus For 2 Weeks After He Died
The rate of testing for COVID-19 in Idaho has rapidly accelerated in recent weeks. But there still aren’t nearly enough kits to test everyone who might have symptoms of the coronavirus, leaving an air of anxiety around those who may have been exposed.
Felicity Guidry had been married to her husband, Howard Guidry Jr., for only a few weeks when he fell and injured his spine in March. He had been in and out of the hospital with a lot of health problems and was headed back again.
While there, she said he eventually developed a cough and a fever, which the doctor thought was pneumonia. He died shortly thereafter at 54-years-old. Felicity and their family were allowed in the room to say goodbye to him.
“Looking back, I was just in shock. I would have objected had I been rational at the moment, but they just put us all in there,” Guidry said. “We were in there for a couple of hours.”
A couple of hours with no masks, no gloves and no protective gowns.
Howard Guidry Jr. died on March 8 – five days before Idaho confirmed its first positive case of the coronavirus.
Despite his symptoms, Felicity said he was never tested for the disease and an autopsy was never performed. While no positive case had been discovered in Idaho at that point, she said she knew the virus was already spreading around undetected.
Without knowing whether her late husband ever had COVID-19, all she and her family, many of whom have underlying health conditions, could do was put themselves into 14 days of isolation.
“The possibility of their exposure terrifies me,” she said.
While testing through private labs has ramped up, access to tests is still being limited to those with the greatest chance of having the disease.
Tommy Ahlquist, a former emergency room doctor and 2018 Republican gubernatorial hopeful in Idaho, runs a chain of health clinics in the Treasure Valley and has been critical of what he sees as a slow response to head off the spread of the virus.
In a society that has grown used to its health care system rapidly assessing a patient and one that expects diagnostic tests to be run in real time, the way this pandemic has been handled has shaken those beliefs, Ahlquist said.
Less than half of one percent of Idaho’s population had been tested as of Friday, with turnaround times at commercial labs ranging from several days to more than a week.
In this dearth of testing, Ahlquist said he’s even heard colleagues say it doesn’t matter if everyone gets one.
“I can’t even think of a more heartless thing to say to a patient that is concerned, anxious about their loved one, or whatever their situation is at home, and you saying, ‘It doesn’t matter anyway.’ That’s just boloney.”
Without widespread testing, effective antiviral drugs or a vaccine, Ahlquist said there are really only a few pieces of advice he has for people in Felicity’s situation.
“Get the best information you can about what’s going on and then try your hardest to be calm, understand what you have control over,” he said.
Learn the main symptoms: a fever, cough, shortness of breath. A sizable number of patients have also lost their sense of smell or taste, though those symptoms can also be linked to unrelated illnesses. Some cases also include gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting and diarrhea. If these begin to develop, call your doctor or a health clinic to try to get treated.
And if you’ve got other people in your house to whom you might expose the virus?
“You’re going to have to tell them to quarantine because it’s the only answer right now,” Ahlquist said.
Felicity made it out of her 14-day, self-imposed quarantine alright, though she’s still coping with the loss of her husband. Even though they were only married for a few weeks, they had been together off and on for decades.
She remembers how they used to cook together, how he would call her when it was raining, or how much he loved to sing karaoke.
“He would stun people by doing 'Devil Went Down to Georgia,' or Hootie and the Blowfish and stuff like that,” Guidry said. “He liked to embarrass me by making me stand up there while he sang to me.”
Felicity wanted to bury him near Virginia Beach, where the two had met, but she wasn’t able to raise enough money for the funeral and travel had become too much of a risk.
Regardless of whether her husband ever contracted the coronavirus, it continues to upend her life.
Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.
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