Between January and February, Boulder resident Rob Lydic traveled about 90,000 miles for work and spent 16 nights in hotel rooms. He thinks it was somewhere in the two days in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles at the tail end of all that where he picked up the coronavirus.
Lydic, who is also a competitive cyclist and lives with his wife and two teenage children in north Boulder, noticed a sore throat around March 6 or 7, but did not think too much about it. He was in his Boulder office March 10 when he started to cough.
“I gotta get the hell out of my office,” he decided.
Lydic, a 44-year-old who runs the commercial electronics strategy for a security company, wasted no time in telling his wife, Patty; son Andrew, 18; and daughter Allison, 16, that they were going to be isolating.
“My education basically was as a biologist and environmental scientist, and as reports began to come out of China … I was a student on that,” he said. “So as soon as I began to show any symptoms, I wanted to be over-protective of others in my family, to lock us in our home and say, ‘We’re going to socially isolate,’ and begin to do all that.
“And we told our kids, you’re not going out and hanging out with your friends. You’re not going to the events that are going to be going on. … It was a very hard conversation, with our kids.”
That was all before he got noticeably sicker.
‘I have to go sit down and recover’
By March 12, he said, “My chest was killing me,” and he felt as if someone was sitting on his chest. He saw his doctor on March 12 — wearing a mask into the office — and on that day he was tested for the flu. The test was negative.
Lydic continued to feel worse, and March 14 he awoke with a high fever and the continued sensation that something was exerting great pressure on his chest. In addition, he was suffering lower back aches and kidney pain. Lydic self-medicated with Mucinex, EmergenC and Tylenol.
It was March 16 that he called the Boulder County Public Health COVID-19 hot line — where he sat on hold, he said, for 90 minutes before leaving a message. His wife, Patty, 46, who was also experiencing some symptoms of illness, also called.
Lydic’s message was returned that day, and they were directed to a drive-up urgent care clinic in Erie, where he tested as presumptive positive — which was confirmed in a follow-up phone call from health officials on Saturday. Patty Lydic tested as negative, they were told in the same call.
Late Monday afternoon, Lydic broadcast a Facebook live message to friends detailing his story — he got through the 25 minutes without coughing once — and he followed that up Tuesday with a second session in which he addressed questions that arose from his Monday chat.
“A lot of my symptoms have subsided, with the exception of my occasional cough, and the soreness in my lungs,” said Lydic, who races as a member of the Sklar Masters Cycling Team. Last year he raced 29 times, logging 6,500 miles and about 300,000 feet in elevation.
“I have shortness of breath, which I had never had before, where I cannot go up and down stairs without being winded, now. And I take breaks. I have to go sit down and recover.”
He’s not ending his quarantine for at least a few more days.
“The quarantine notification that I received from the Communicable Disease and Emergency Management Division of Boulder County Public Health mandated that I remain in isolation for 72 hours past any fever or symptoms,” he said on Tuesday. “As long as I have a cough at all, I will continue to say that I have symptoms. My intent is to remain at my house until I feel better.”
He was asked to compare this sickness to anything he might have gone through before.
“I would say this is entirely different, and I certainly have had the flu, and I have had injuries and this is very different. And it’s different in that it ebbs and flows,” he said.
“It’s not like a flu or cold where, you’re in a dark place and then you can begin to feel yourself coming out of it and you’re on the road to health. What I have experienced with this that it ebbs and flows. Last week I felt great on Wednesday, I believe, and on Thursday I felt awful again, and my body aches would return and my kidney aches would return and I’d have a headache.”
‘We’re the zombies’
He and his wife have both voiced uncertainty that she was, in fact, truly negative for COVID-19.
“I have the body aches. It started with a sore throat, headache, body aches, a persistent dry cough,” Patty Lydic said. “I did not have the deep pain in my chest that Rob describes. But certainly, chest pain and shortness of breath, and fatigue. Since the Thursday when school got out which was the 12th, when I woke up that morning, I have felt not quite right.”
How does a married couple, where one or perhaps both are sick, social distance in their own home? In their case, they don’t.
“We actually, have not social distanced in our household in terms of our marriage,” said Patty Lydic. “We sleep in the same bed. We are not kissing. We are not having intimate relations, quite honestly.
“But we share so much of the same space, and had been, up to the point where we both had the same symptoms, that it did not make sense, after waiting six days for a positive result, to isolate Rob to the basement bedroom. And the epidemiology people with the county said at this point, it wouldn’t matter.”
The Lydics’ home backs onto a bike path, where they often exchange greetings with others who might be walking or riding by.
“One passerby said, ‘How are you surviving the apocalypse?’ Patty Lydic said. “I said to my kids, ‘If this is the apocalypse, it turns out we’re the zombies.’”