At the height of her three-week battle with COVID-19, Patricia A. Mitchell was coughing so hard she believed she had broken a rib.
“Don’t call an ambulance,” she said to her husband. “I don’t want to die in the hospital.”
Her husband, Harold W. (Woody) Mitchell, could not offer much comfort. He, too, had coughed so hard—even coughed up blood—during the worst phase of his own illness that he went to Falmouth Hospital’s emergency room.
“At that point, we didn’t think I had coronavirus because my cough was not a dry cough,” Mr. Mitchell said, but the hospital tested him anyway.
Sure enough, he tested positive and was sent to his home in Sandwich to shelter in place.
The following week Ms. Mitchell also tested positive and the couple buckled up for what proved to be a harrowing three weeks in quarantine.
They both had the same virus, but some of their symptoms differed.
In addition to the wracking dry cough, Ms. Mitchell had the characteristic headache and sore throat.
Her husband had a slight headache, but no sore throat. His cough, which was complicated by a nasal infection, was more “productive,” as they say in the medical journals.
Both spiked fevers of 100 to 101 degrees, and both were so fatigued they could barely navigate through the house.
“I would get up and walk to the bathroom and then lie back down again,” Mr. Mitchell said. “The high point of the day was taking a hot shower.”
Mr. Mitchell, who is 59, said he lost his sense of taste and had no hunger.
“If you served me some chicken and put a towel over it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what I was eating,” Mr. Mitchell said. “For that matter, you could have just served me the towel.”
Ms. Mitchell, 60, believed she might die.
“It was terrifying, but we had each other,” Ms. Mitchell said.
At the request of the Enterprise the couple agreed to discuss the course of their illnesses, hoping that by telling their story, others might be helped through the ordeal.
When they were dealing with myriad medical issues the Mitchells had trouble finding people to walk their dog or buy groceries for them.
“Nobody wants to accept cash from you when you’re infected,” Mr. Mitchell said. “We didn’t want to ask our friends to just pay for us and the Stop & Shop delivery system was totally backed up.”
They finally found a dog walker who used Venmo—an electronic money transfer app—and someone else who would buy groceries and deposit them on the front steps.
They had less luck with finding a company that would pick up their trash—which piled up in the garage while they recovered, Mr. Mitchell said.
But there have been positive moments, too.
“The town has been awesome,” Mr. Mitchell said.
Nurses from the Sandwich Public Nurse’s office called them every day.
“The public health nurses put a face on the town’s efforts for us and made us feel like someone cared,” Mr. Mitchell said.
The phone calls were a lifeline during a time of fear and confusion, Ms. Mitchell added.
“The nurses kept us focused on what symptoms were non-COVID related—like Woody’s respiratory infection that was being treated with antibiotics. That helped calm us down,” she said.
Both Mitchells continued to work from home—when they were able. Mr. Mitchell works for a construction company on Martha’s Vineyard and also serves as chairman of the Cape Cod Commission. Ms. Mitchell works for Keurig Dr. Pepper beverage company.
On Monday, April 6,three weeks after they entered self quarantine, the Mitchells received a liberating phone call from the board of health.
“We were given the all-clear,” Mr. Mitchell said. “We could no longer transmit the coronavirus.”
The next day, the Mitchells were trying to decide what to do to celebrate—responsibly.
“It’s a beautiful day. I think we might just take a drive and see what’s happening out there,” Mr. Mitchell said. “The world has changed a lot in three weeks. Tom Brady was still a Patriot when we went inside.”
The Mitchells have a message for fellow Cape Codders:
“This isn’t a joke, and it’s not just something that’s happening in New York and California,” Mr. Mitchell said. “It’s happening right here on Cape Cod. Be responsible.”