Like his son, Dr. Harry Saag: “There is no doubt that in the past two weeks, I have had the hardest conversations I have ever had with families. “
But this reality makes it all the more rewarding when a COVID patient is released – and ultimately joins the ranks of the “recovered.”
Surviving this coronavirus is another thing this father and son have in common, after Harry unknowingly infected his father.
“We both knew, you know, where the road could go if things got worse,” said Harry.
Correspondent Seth Doane – who himself– asked Michael Saag: “We are now all part of this group of” coronavirus survivors “. How is it to be on the other side? “
“The first thing we feel is the gratitude we have made,” replied Michael. “And then the second thing is, from these video games, it’s almost like,” I have a coat of invincibility! But the truth is, we don’t know. “
Dr. Saag has spent much of his career studying AIDS at the University of Alabama and sees questions about potential immunity through the lens of an infectious disease researcher. “There are viruses, like measles, mumps, rubella, that once you have it, you don’t get it back,” he said. “But there are other viruses, like Dengue fever, that you can not only get a second time, but the second time the infection and the disease are much worse. “
As Doane discovered after fighting the coronavirus for weeks, and finally testing negative more than a month later, the initial relief gives way to a new set of questions.
Fiona Lowenstein, who was hospitalized for COVID-19 in March, said, “We don’t even know anyone who had this virus and who survived, you know, six months later. So we have no idea what it will be like to have survived this virus a year after catching it, or two years. “
Lowenstein started a support group for thousands of other coronavirus survivors.
“The main type of shared experience is that the symptoms persist for a long time,” she said. “There are also a lot of people who have similar mental health issues. Many people say, “My employer does not understand why I am still not feeling well. My family does not understand. My friends don’t understand and I really feel alone. “”
For example, a recent New York Times article, featuring stories of emboldened survivors having dinner and traveling, left her wondering, “I think there were a lot of people who saw it and said to themselves : »Who are these superheroes who are because it is not me! “Said Lowenstein.
Survivor Jacob Brown is still cautious after the virus takes as much. “I wear a mask all the time when I’m in public,” he said. “You know, my knuckles are still so dry from washing my hands all the time.
“I had, like, a part-time job in a restaurant. I lost that, of course. But, yes, I was laid off full time. “
“You got all the punches from COVID,” said Doane.
“Yeah – moved, back with the family!” ” he’s laughing.
The former New York software designer is now in North Carolina to help his family’s struggling toy business. He hopes that by donating blood and its antibody-rich plasma, something good can happen.
“I have this rare opportunity to try to help research or, you know, donate blood,” said Brown.
“Do you see that having COVID-19 is a rare opportunity?” Asked Doane.
“If I can help in any way save a life, I’m happy to do it. “
Dr. Michael Saag also donates blood plasma; and he and his son always wear full protective gear when volunteering to help COVID-19 patients.
Doane asked, “Are you surprised that at this point we still know so little about this virus? “
“No – it’s a bit the opposite! ” he’s laughing. “I am amazed that we know as much as we do. Let’s look at AIDS. AIDS was first described in early 1981. It wasn’t until two and a half years later that we found the cause, a virus. And it was only a year after we took a test. And it wasn’t until two or three years after we had our first medication. six years.
“We are in less than six months. “
And while key questions about immunity remain, COVID survivor Dr. Saag is optimistic: “My personal belief, as a researcher, virologist, infectious disease provider and former patient, I truly believe that the antibody will be protective and that people will not be reinfected. And that gives me hope for a vaccine. “
“So, is it fair to say that there is a sigh of careful relief, perhaps? Asked Doane.
“I think it’s a great way to say it! “
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Story produced by Sari Aviv. Publisher: Lauren Barnello.