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Longview COVID-19 survivor reflects on long recovery

Longview COVID-19 survivor reflects on long recovery

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More than three months after testing positive for COVID-19, Perry Hanchey has his energy back.

In mid-March, the 70-year-old Longview Pentecostal Church pastor was hospitalized for five days with pneumonia in both lungs. Hanchey was so sick he thought he might not survive. The previous week, he’d been sick at home with weakness, chills and fevers.

After leaving the hospital on March 20, Hanchey said recently it took nearly a month to fully recover.

“I would say it took a good three weeks or so before I felt like I could breathe real deep and my strength came back,” he said. “It was quite an experience.”

Hanchey is one Cowlitz County’s 74 recovered virus patients, which make up about 44% of the total cases, according to the Cowlitz COVID-19 Incident Management Team. As of Friday, the county has reported a total of 169 cases. The state considers patients “recovered” if, 28 days after symptoms began or they were tested, they are alive and not hospitalized. About 42% of COVID-19 patients in the United States have recovered, according to Worldometer.

An estimated 80% of COVID-19 patients worldwide recover without needing hospital treatment, according to the World Health Organization. There is no official treatment for COVID-19, and since the disease is relatively new, any long-term effects are still coming to light.

Symptoms can range from mildly discomforting to life-threatening, with one in five patients becoming seriously ill and developing difficulty breathing. Those with existing serious illnesses also are more likely to have complications, according to the WHO. Those complications include pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, organ failure, heart problems, blood clots, kidney injury and viral or bacterial infections, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While older people or those with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to become seriously ill from the virus, anyone infected runs the risk of severe illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the county’s 169 total cases, 18 have been hospitalized, which is about 10.7%, according to the state Department of Health, with no virus-related deaths. In Washington, about 4,200 people have been hospitalized, or 13.6% of cases, and more than 1,300 have died, according to the agency.

Hanchey’s illness fell on the more severe side, but he said since shaking off the last dregs of the pneumonia in late April, he hasn’t shown any other side effects.

Although she was never tested, doctors told his wife, who was sick during the week she cared for Hanchey at home, that she “definitely” had COVID-19 as well, he said. The virus may have hit Hanchey harder than his wife because his lungs are likely damaged from years of welding, he said.

At least three members of Hanchey’s congregation also tested positive for COVID-19, he said. One man didn’t have symptoms, and an older couple were hospitalized, but have since recovered, Hanchey said. Another member of the congregation lost his sense of taste (a symptom of COVID-19) but was never tested, he said.

As the county has reopened under Phase 2 of the governor’s plan, Hanchey has begun visiting with members of the congregation in person in small groups. While some are more cautious and stay away from gatherings, others are “chomping at the bit” to have church services again, he said. But Hanchey said everyone understands the need to follow the restrictions.

“The social distancing, face masks, that’s not a salvation issue,” he said. “This is a protection of health issue. We really need to be careful and use good sense. God gave us that ability and he never leaves us. People understand that.”

Hanchey said he and his wife are being more cautious now because they know the danger of the virus. The couple still follow social distancing guidelines and get in and out of the store quickly, he said. Health officials still don’t know if those previously infected with coronavirus retain immunity or could become infected again.

“I sure wouldn’t want to go through it again,” Hanchey said.

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