Highlands native is struggling with COVID

We are bombarded daily with COVID statistics globally, nationally, statewide and locally. Yet people in Highlands ask, “Does anyone actually know someone with COVID?”

The answer of course is yes, as more and more people have a family member diagnosed or know a person who knows a person …. 

In Highlands, the Terry and Karin Potts family is well known as are their children Ryan, Christopher and Brittany who are all married with families of their own living far and wide.

The family of Christopher Potts and his wife Kelly are nurses in Florida, about 45 minutes north of Tampa. He is a surgical nurse and she now teaches nursing at a local college. But suddenly their lives took a turn for the worse.

Christopher, 37 with no underlying health conditions, recently contracted COVID from a patient he treated in the surgical center in Tampa where he works. After four negative tests while seeking medical help, he was hospitalized and is finally, slowly recovering. 

Christopher went from part-time to full-time at the facility in May, but his health insurance doesn’t kick in until August. Now he has been out of work for more than a month and the family is facing mounting hospital bills. They are seeking financial help through a GoFundMe page.

Kelly tells their story:

Up until a little over a month ago, Christopher Potts spent almost every night on a stationary bike for close to an hour, and on the nights he didn’t do that, he was running a 5K through the neighborhood but on June 24th all of that changed, as well as our family dynamic as we know it.

On June 24th, Christopher took care of a patient who soon after tested positive for covid. I am not really sure how we felt when we found out that information – scared, sad, mad, mostly fearful. We wondered whether his case would be short-lived with minimal symptoms, but we soon found out we would not be so lucky.

On June 27th Christopher developed a fever of 103, but we still prayed for the best. For the next week, he spiked high fevers which were not alleviated with Tylenol and Ibuprofen. He had body aches, cold sweats, sleepless nights, numb toes and fingers and toward the end of the week he had trouble breathing when ambulating from one room of the house to another.

The second week was worse, and we were losing hope that this would be a simple case of Covid. 

During the second week with oxygen levels still decreasing, Christopher started to hallucinate and struggled to even get out of bed. We knew that we had to go to the ER so we took him and after another Covid test, chest x-ray, and lots of lab work we were discharged home and told “You are young, you will recover fine at home, you can follow up if symptoms get worse.”

We went home and two days later his oxygenation dropped down to a dangerous level so we went back to the hospital. This time he was admitted with pneumonia, shortness of breath, and a slew of other diagnoses. He would be discharged two days later because they needed the bed and he was again told, “You are young, we will get you some oxygen and you will recover at home.”

The next week came and went, he was not getting better, he was slowly declining and was a shell of the man that I met more than 13 years ago. 

On July 18, I woke up to my husband crying, clutching his chest, struggling to breathe stating, “This is it; I am going to die.” He was rushed to the hospital where he was again admitted, finally getting a confirmed Covid diagnosis after four negative ones. He also had another case of pneumonia on top of the one that he still had not recovered from before, his oxygen levels were dangerously low, and every night I worried this would be the night they would call me to tell me he needed to be put on a ventilator.

He received antibiotics and steroids and we waited patiently for the antiviral Remdesivir and a plasma donor who would match his blood type who had previously been diagnosed with Covid. 

On Tuesday night, July 21 Christopher received his first dose of Remdesivir. We would later find out the hospital he was in only received 16 doses of the medication that is continuously on backorder when there were easily triple that amount of patients who needed the medication. 

The Remdesivir is a new treatment for COVID and is technically considered a clinical trial and patients have to meet certain criteria to even be placed in the candidate pool. That same night they found a plasma match, so Christopher received his dose of plasma with covid anitbodies.

The next few days were touch and go. His symptoms didn’t change and the social isolation was becoming a terrible side effect on its own. As a society, I do not think we place enough emphasis on how hard it is for these patients to be socially isolated for weeks, sometimes months without the hug of a loved one, or just their presence in the room. 

However, we finally started to see a change on Saturday, July 25th, a little over one month from the start of symptoms. He smiled during Facetime, he posted on Facebook, he was hopeful, positive that the Remdesiver and plasma were finally working their magic! There is talk of discharge as soon as he is well enough and we could not be more thankful. However, it will probably be at least another month before he will be able to return to work, and that is a guess — it could be longer. No one has a clear picture about the long-term effects of COVID.

We realize there are a lot of families fighting COVID, and even though we had a rocky road, we are so thankful that we did not lose the person my two boys and I love most in the world. We will get to live so much more of this life with him and I am forever grateful for that.

Whatever money is donated to our GoFundMe will be used to pay bills and the rest will be put aside for the incredibly high medical bills we know we will be acquiring as Christopher was uninsured due to a recent status change at his job as a nurse in a surgery center in Tampa.

Click HERE to visit Christopher’s GoFundMe page.

Pictured at the top of the article is Greyson, 9, and Declan, 6, with their parents Christopher and Kelly Potts before COVID.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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