By Crystal Burns
Trenton Aldermen Tony Burriss and Rickey Graves had similar experiences with COVID-19 in December.
Tony and wife Kathi and Rickey and wife Susan are grateful to be fully recovered or on the mend after suffering with the virus that affects people in drastically different ways.
Tony and Kathi Burriss both tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 15. Kathi had undergone back surgery earlier in the month but was recovering until she started feeling weak and began having trouble getting around. Tony said his symptoms started on Dec. 9, but he wasn’t worried about COVID.
“I thought I had a bad head cold, and that was the beginning of it,” he said.
Tony said that while he and Kathi both consider their cases to have been mild, they suffered through the symptoms. He lost his sense of taste and smell; she did not. They endured what has been termed COVID fog or COVID brain.
“I just couldn’t focus,” Tony said. “I was really tired all the time. She was really tired, and she had the mind fog also.”
The couple quarantined for 10 days and were joined by their grandson Andrew who had also tested positive. Tony said Andrew’s case was “really, really mild” to the point that had his grandparents not tested positive, Andrew probably wouldn’t have suspected he had COVID.
Tony and Kathi were able to undergo infusions, a treatment that local hospitals recently began offering certain COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate cases in hopes of helping them avoid hospitalization. Tony said the infusions were turning points for both of them. Before the infusions, he described their illnesses as eight or nine days of not getting any better. About 36 hours after the infusions, he said they turned the corner.
“We were lucky,” Tony said. “We feel for all these people who have gotten [COVID] and suffered from it. We pray for them. We’ve had friends that have died from it.”
Tony said it took him a couple weeks to totally regain his sense of taste and smell. He has residual headaches occasionally. He said Kathi is “completely fine” now.
They don’t know where they contracted the virus, and Tony said it doesn’t matter. They wore masks in public and think maybe that saved them from more severe symptoms. They continue to wear their masks in public and will get the vaccine when they’re able. Doctors have told them they won’t be eligible for vaccination until late March because of the infusions they received. With the COVID-19 antibodies in their system, the couple probably has three to four months of immunity from the virus.
“We’re not scared of the vaccine,” Tony said. “I think that’s the only way we’re going to get [the virus] whipped. It’s a baffling disease. It’s just terrible. We’re just so grateful we didn’t have it as bad as a lot of people have.”
Rickey and Susan Graves
Rickey and Susan Graves are back at work but still recovering from their COVID-19 battles. Rickey was caring for his wife who had tested positive around Dec. 15. He didn’t receive a positive diagnosis until Dec. 20 after being tested a second time.
Graves said that everything from their heads to their toes hurt. He described joint pain as well as a swollen knee and pain in his teeth and jaws.
“All my systems were affected,” Rickey said. “It’s probably the most horrible experience I’ve ever had.”
Rickey’s fever spiked to 103 degrees three times, while Susan’s got up to 101.
“She was pretty sick right off the bat,” Rickey said. “I thought mine wasn’t going to be that bad, but we were struggling.”
They needed IV fluids about midway through their illness, and Rickey took breathing treatments he was able to administer in their home. Graves is the director of Gibson County Emergency Management and has decades of experience and training as a first responder.
The couple did undergo infusions and feel like the treatments helped.
Graves said the couple’s church family and friends were wonderful caregivers even though they couldn’t come inside the couple’s home.
“They were constantly checking on us, bringing us food and leaving it on the front porch,” he said. “They were great.”
He and Susan, who have been careful to wear masks in public, believe their exposure to the virus was due to an unavoidable situation. They both plan to take the vaccine when it’s available to them.
“I guarantee you, as soon as I can get it, I will,” Graves said. “[COVID-19] is an experience I never want to have again.”
Numbers still concerning
Tennessee was considered one of the worst hotspots in the country in December, ranking No. 1 for COVID-19 infections. Governor Bill Lee called it a “cold, cruel phase” of the pandemic. According to the Tennessee COVID-19 dashboard, as of Jan. 20, the total number of confirmed cases in Tennessee since March 5, 2020 was 694,291 with 8,556 fatalities and 16,233 hospitalizations. More than 633,000 Tennesseans have recovered from COVID.
Gibson County had a total of 5,671 cases, 112 deaths, and 87 hospitalizations from March 5, 2020 to Jan. 20, 2021. More than 5,200 people testing positive for COVID-19 have recovered or their cases are listed as inactive.
Gibson County is still in Phase 1a1 and 1a2 for the vaccine. Phase 1a1 includes inpatient and other high-exposure health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, first responders, and adults who cannot live independently. Phase 1a2 includes outpatient health care workers with direct patient exposure including mortuary services and those age 75 and up.
As of Jan. 21, about 4.3% of the state’s population has been vaccinated with at least one dose. Only .8% have been fully vaccinated.
To make an appointment for vaccination, call 866-442-5301 or go online to https://covid19.tn.gov/vaccine_phase/gibson-county/.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to recommend wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, and washing your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.