Chandler man recalls hard battle with COVID-19 The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler man recalls hard battle with COVID-19

Chandler man recalls hard battle with COVID-19
City News

By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

Less than 48 hours after checking himself into a hospital for COVID-19, Jeffrey Esperson’s vitals were crashing and he had to be rushed over to the intensive care unit.

The 39-year-old Chandler man’s oxygen levels had dropped to dangerous numbers – prompting his doctors and nurses to presume he might not make it out of the hospital alive.

“That hadn’t even dawned on me at the time,” he recalled. “It was just so surreal.”

But his health eventually started to improve and the virus’s symptoms began to wane. Speaking by phone from his hospital bed on June 22, Esperson said he’s hoping to be discharged soon and continue his recovery at home.   

Esperson, an investigative fraud specialist by trade, is one of the more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 found in Chandler since the virus started proliferating in late March.

Though local municipalities have begun opening up public facilities and lifting stay-at-home restrictions, Chandler’s infection rate continues to climb on a weekly basis.

The Chandler Fire Department warned city leaders earlier this month that the region’s infection rate could increase by 33 percent in the coming weeks.

Esperson had thought he was being careful when he moved about the city. He often wore a mask and only ventured outside his home to buy groceries or pick up food from a restaurant.

He felt pretty insulated from the virus’s reach since no one within his inner circle had tested positive for the disease.

“I’m the first person I know to have it,” he said.

He’s not entirely sure how he may have contracted the virus but recalls feeling the first symptoms on June 7, saying he started feeling dizzy, light-headed and plagued by a terrible headache.   

Within days Esperson said his whole body started to ache. His temperature escalated to nearly 103 degrees.

The situation became more dire after Esperson’s wife Carolyn started displaying symptoms as well.

The couple traveled to a local urgent care facility and both were tested for the coronavirus. Once they returned home, Esperson received a startling message from his boss.

Budget cuts caused by the weak economy were forcing his employer to lay off some staff members; Esperson was one of the guys to get the ax.

He didn’t have much time to process the bad news because a couple days later, Esperson’s test results came back: both he and his wife had the coronavirus.

The couple’s first concern was not wanting to spread the virus to anyone around them, Esperson said. They quarantined themselves and had supplies delivered to their door.

When Esperson’s sister, a registered nurse, was told of his diagnosis, she ordered a pulse oximeter machine online and had it shipped to her brother’s home. Esperson was able to regularly monitor the oxygen levels in his blood and noticed they started to drop.   

He rushed to Banner University Medical Center while his wife stayed home.

Esperson checked in on June 12 and soon found himself in the COVID-19 ward of the hospital’s intensive care unit.

His sister, who works in the same hospital, was able to keep him company as doctors treated him.

“I was blessed to be able to look into the eyes of a family member when I was fighting the hardest parts of the fight,” Esperson said.

Though he and his wife appear to be recovering, Esperson faces an uncertain future. The health insurance coverage he had through his former employer will be running out soon and he’s not sure what long-term respiratory problems he may experience.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute launched a study this month in an attempt to predict the long-term health outcomes of COVID-19 survivors. Initial studies in China suggest a significant number of COVID-19 patients have sustained ongoing heart damage.

But Esperson said he’s trying to stay optimistic, noting his problems don’t seem so awful compared to all the other hardships going on in the world.

“It’s also an opportunity for change and good things to happen,” Esperson added. “I’m going to continue to trust things will work out the ways that they should.”

He feels his experience has helped him grow and develop as a person.

Now that he’s survived the pandemic’s wrath, Esperson said his perspective on the global health crisis has started to change.

He hopes everyone will follow the advice of health officials by donning face masks whenever they’re in public. There’s no reason to take the risk by not wearing a mask, he said.

“Nobody really wants to find out for themselves whether they’re going to be one of the ones who end up in the hospital from it,” he said. “It’s just not worth it.”

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