Coronavirus changed lives, took lives, gave perspective for local residents

As the Miami Valley marks six moths since Ohio was shut down to combat the coronavirus, the Dayton Daily News interviewed three people impacted personally by COVID-19 on their experiences.

‘Things are different’

What began in early June as a headache and slight fever has become a months-long battle for Sean L. Walton Sr.

Walton said he doesn’t know how he contracted coronavirus. He was careful, wearing a mask and taking steps to protect himself.

“I wasn’t around people, was social distancing, that sort of thing. I’m a person who’s a very strong person. No one would have thought that I would have had coronavirus," he said.

Walton is 52 and has asthma, but was was generally fit before the virus forced him to get a walker and place chairs around his house for fear of falling down from dizziness. He had lesions, swelling, congestion, muscle weakness and shortness of breath.

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And even after he defeated the virus, his body was left weak. His lungs are still recovering.

“Yesterday was really, really rough,” he said in an interview last week about mowing his lawn the day before, something he used to make into a workout bundled in a hoodie and sweatpants.

“I found myself having to cut it a few stripes at a time,” he said. “Things are different. Just wrapping my mind around what I’m hoping is not the new normal, but what I’m hoping is just a journey back toward me being at least as good as I was before.”

A message from mom: vote

Credit: Bill Franz

Credit: Bill Franz

Bill Franz remembers his mother Betty telling him that when she was young and newly married, she had told her father she and her husband didn’t vote.

“He was upset. He told them he didn’t want to hear a complaint from either one of them because they must think things are perfect because why else would you not vote,” Franz said.

Franz said after that his parents always voted — though they didn’t talk about who they were voting for — until she was in her 90s and said she wasn’t going to be voting anymore, “the young people should take care of that.”

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Then coronavirus hit. The nursing home she lived at in Napoleon, Ohio, was ravaged. Franz could no longer hug his mother, but instead would sit outside her window and talk on the phone. His brother, who would leave an ear of corn on the windowsill every week so she could be entertained by the squirrels, watched through the window as a tearful nurse sat by his mother as she died from COVID-19.

“People wear masks at a COVID funeral,” he said.

Franz runs the Dayton at Work and Play Facebook page and is using it to urge people to vote in his mom’s honor.

He said before she died, as visitors to her nursing home diminished, the 96-year-old continued reading newspapers and saw how everyone’s world was getting smaller. “She said she had changed her mind, that she was going to vote again, but then she died on Aug. 28 so that didn’t happen,” he said.

Fire chief: ‘The sickest I’ve been'

“The odd thing with the virus is you can have it and be asymptomatic, or you can have it and be dead,” said Dave Reichert, who luckily survived after three weeks of illness he describes as the worst in his life.

Reichert, who is Fairborn’s fire chief, and his wife contracted coronavirus in early July. It started with a slight cough, he said, then progressed from there. They purchased a device to monitor blood-oxygen levels at home.

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“My trouble breathing came from the non-stop coughing fits where I could never catch my breath,” said Reichert, who turns 48 this month. “That’s the sickest I’ve been that I can remember, where it absolutely levels you, and you know it just takes you out of the game.”

Reichert said the experience reinforced the importance of preventative measures. He said it was eye-opening how many people his illness affected, from family members that had to quarantine to his work where he was absent for weeks.

“It’s solidified the efforts that we’ve taken to try to take care of our people, from my home to my work," he said.

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