Healthbeat: COVID-19 survivor details experience, shares message of hope

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The toll COVID-19 has taken on families worldwide in the past year has been devastating. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 23,000 people have died from the virus.

Many who’ve survived it say it’s the worst thing they’ve ever experienced. People infected with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or suffer greatly.

A public figure in Northeastern Pennsylvania is sharing his experience with COVID which he calls the most devastating illness he’s ever had.

As you may tell by pictures and memorabilia in his office, 60-year-old Ted Wampole is a big fan of the New York Mets. But after what he recently endured, he wasn’t sure he’d live to see another baseball season.

“It’s a scary thing like, people don’t think it’s real, call me,” Wampole said. 

The Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director was infected with COVID-19 around Thanksgiving. The virus also hit his wife, Susan, and two sons.

“You can start feeling — you’re getting the congestion. You’re starting to feel heavy breathing, like, it was just you’re fatigued,” Wampole explained.

Wampole and his family figured they’d ride out the symptoms while quarantining but his health took a downward spiral in a matter of days.

“I got, like, really sick. The body aches were just, you know they’re, they were unbearable, like, they are hard to deal with.”  

Wampole feared what would happen if he had to be hospitalized.

“You know people now that have died, and I’m thinking if I go, you know, that could be it, you know. So, you start making those plans.”

And he prayed. Oh, how he prayed that he could break the clutches of this dreaded virus.

“My dad passed away in 2009 and I’m praying to him. You know, I’m reaching out to my aunts and uncles that have passed away and I’m like, ‘help me’ because you know you have the bad chills and you’re thinking ‘man, I’ve got it bad’.”

Wampole realized riding out his serious symptoms was no longer an option. So, when he reached out to his doctor here in Kingston, she recommended he get a chest CT scan to determine just how sick he really was.

The results Dr. Jacqueline Cain, Wampole’s physician, received were quite concerning.

“He had a pretty significant pneumonia on the CT and those people take longer to get better.”

COVID pneumonia can trigger shortness of breath, a racing heartbeat and chest pain.

“If you look at what’s been on the TV, those are the symptoms that throw you on a ventilator and how many people do we hear get off,” Dr. Cain said.

Dr. Cain prescribed an antibiotic and steroids for Wampole’s pneumonia hoping he wouldn’t have to be hospitalized.

“We started him on the standard treatment. We added a little zinc because zinc has been known to help the immune system and we went from there and as I say by the grace of God he got better.”

“All of a sudden you get up one morning and you’re, like, the aches are not as bad. You know, you’re breathing is better. The pulse oximeter. I’m like thank you Dr. Cain,” said Wampole.

Wampole returned to work in early January but the effects of COVID still linger. He’s waiting to fully recover his ability to taste and smell.

“And it comes and goes. I mean, sometimes you can lose your sense of taste in the middle of eating something and, you know, it tastes good to bite it and you have no idea when you swallow it what happened.”

He’s also trying to build up his stamina and strength.

Wampole says: “If we kept walking and did a couple laps around the Square, I think it would be an issue.” 

Hiller says: “You’d feel it.” 

Wampole says: “Which is weird.”

As he continues on the comeback trail, Wampole urges everyone to keep up their vigilance until we can conquer COVID-19.

“You know, some people will say I just want to get it and get it over with, no you don’t. Like, no you don’t. And no matter what your age, like, you don’t. I tell people all the time you don’t want this.”

As bad as COVID was for Wampole, he says his wife had it even worse. He says texts and well-wishes from family and friends and having supportive employers made a huge difference in their recovery.

Dr. Cain hopes Wampole will finally conquer COVID by early summer.

Mark Hiller Eyewitness News

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