Boulder Cyclists Warn That Their 'Mild' Coronavirus Illness Packs A Punch
Rob and Patty Lydic are among the 80% of "mild" coronavirus cases that leaders and health officials often cite as shorthand to explain the risks during the pandemic. The Boulder couple are in their 40s and both very fit. Rob raced his bicycle 29 times last year, logging 6,500 miles, and Patty rides, too, and also does yoga.
Despite their good health, COVID-19 struck the Lydics hard, with symptoms ranging from dry coughing to fever lingering for weeks.
"I could go out for a bike ride and push myself hard, go up hills, climb mountains and sprint if I chose to," Rob Lydic said. "I was now getting winded climbing up a single flight of stairs."
Health officials have repeated the warning that those facing the highest risk for severe illness if they get coronavirus are older than 60 or have underlying health conditions, like diabetes, liver disease, asthma or heart issues. Colorado's data, so far, show most deaths are among people older than 60, especially those older than 80.
Yet health officials are also issuing less-headline grabbing messages. During a recent press conference with Gov. Jared Polis, Dr. Marc Moss, a pulmonary and lung specialist at the University of Colorado Hospital, said most people hit by the virus are healthy.
"Though older people and those with underlying medical problems have a worse outcome if they contract the virus, the COVID patients we are treating are an average in their 40s and 50s and some are as young as 19 years old," Moss said. "Many of these patients were healthy with no other pre-existing medical problems."
About two-thirds of coronavirus diagnoses in Colorado are people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
"This pandemic can affect anyone," Moss said.
Rob and Patty Lydic were among Colorado's first wave of coronavirus cases in mid-March. During a bicycle ride together, Rob's throat felt a little sore.
"It was fun," Rob Lydic said. "It was easy and that ended up being the last ride I did."
About a day later, he'd developed a dry cough. Soon he was having trouble breathing.
"I began to have some significant lung issues and it continued to progress," he said. "I got fever. I got body aches. I got a bunch of other symptoms. So it progressed fairly quickly."
In the weeks prior to feeling ill, he had traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles for work. Before that, he'd been as far away as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Yet none of those places, international or domestic, were on the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions watch list for coronavirus. So when Rob Lydic went to his doctor, he didn't get a coronavirus test.
"When I went in to get evaluated, they said, 'Well you definitely have symptoms, we're going to test you for the flu,'" he said.
Flu tests came back negative. Meanwhile, Patty Lydic had begun to feel ill, too.
"I woke up and started not feeling 100%," she said. "We looked at each other and said, 'OK. We have got to go into quarantine and lockdown.'"
Complicating the situation was that the couple has two kids — 16 and 18. They stayed away from their kids who were soon at home from school as social distancing advisories went into place around the state.
As Rob and Patty's symptoms worsened, they finally turned to Boulder County's COVID-19 hotline. They were told to drive to a clinic in Erie to receive tests. Medical workers dressed in masks and gowns administered the tests as they stayed in their car.
The couple were told they would get their results in five to seven days. Eventually both were diagnosed with COVID-19. As for their kids, they've been symptom free.
"They're both OK and have not had symptoms and we've been super conscientious and cautious of how they're feeling on a day to day basis," Patty Lydic said.
The couple are thankful they haven't needed hospital care, but that doesn't mean their symptoms were mild.
"When my doctor reached out to me to check and see how I'm feeling, that was one of the things that was helpful to hear from her is that other patients who are convalescing at home are expressing the same sort of rollercoaster symptoms of you're not just better one day," Patty Lydic said. "It comes and goes."
Rob Lydic's symptoms, including fever, lasted weeks. He said the virus appears to have run its course and left him feeling weaker. He is thinking about easing back into physical activity again, eyeing his bicycle. Yet he also worries that his lungs could be damaged.
Some doctors say cases like these won't suffer long-term issues — like lung damage. Studies on that subject are only starting to come in so the Lydics plan to take their recoveries in baby steps, hyper-aware of how their bodies react to exercise.
As Rob Lydic said, "Trying not to overexert ourselves to cause any additional damage or to just find ourselves in a compromised position."