After a 10-day hospital stay that included dozens of diagnostic tests, an oxygen tank and a twice-daily dose of opioids, Michael Bane is now recovering at home from COVID-19. But he still can’t hold his daughter.
Bane, 42 of Berwyn, received national attention for a detailed and heart-wrenching account of his experience with the coronavirus, which he contracted in early March. His personal essay, shared more than 300,000 times on Facebook, gives a glimpse into what it’s like to contract and be hospitalized for COVID-19. He was discharged from the hospital last Monday and has been isolating at home for a week now, but has yet to interact with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.
“We FaceTime within our own house, which is kind of kind of funny,” Bane said. “But I did get to see them last week when I went out into my backyard and my wife and daughter came to the window. That's the extent of me seeing them as of yet.”
Upon discharge from Rush University Medical Center on Chicago’s West Side, Bane said he was told he’d be contagious for up to 72 hours after his symptoms go away. His cough and shortness of breath continue to linger.
Bane is isolated in his home basement and said he’s spending his time taking work calls, sleeping and watching TV. In the hospital, he passed time between treatments watching Netflix’s wildly popular docu-series Tiger King and HBO’s The Outsider.
He wasn’t allowed visitors and had very little face-to-face interaction with medical staff.
“You're in one room alone the whole time,” he said. “The doctors or nurses will often call you from outside your room as opposed to coming in, because coming in is quite a process for them. They’re in masks and goggles, and they have to put on a new gown every time.”
The only time Bane left his room was when he was transferred to the intensive care unit halfway through his stay because his oxygen levels tanked, he said.
“It was like I was breathing but not getting any air,” he said. “I don't really know how to describe it other than terrifying because it's kind of like watching yourself get ready to die.”
Bane considers himself relatively healthy and says he does not have any underlying conditions that could make the virus more life threatening.
He said he considers this a near-death experience and a cautionary tale about social distancing.
“I didn't really believe [in social distancing] to the extent that I should have at the time,” he said. “You know, I went to the grocery store, I went to the gym before they closed, I dropped my daughter off at daycare prior to being tested. In hindsight, that was a horrible thing and I wish there were some things I hadn’t done.”
Bane said he and his family remain on high alert. It's unclear whether people who recover from COVID-19 will be immune to reinfection from the coronavirus, and Bane’s wife is worried about exposure as she works at a hospital.
Bane said he feels better than he has in weeks and is looking forward to continued recovery. He plans to hug his wife and daughter for the first time since mid-March on Monday.
Mariah Woelfel is a reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her @mariahwoelfel.