More than 8,000 Kentuckians have been sickened so far by the coronavirus. A vast majority are survivors, yet they can face a long road to recovery. Among them is Morris Hogue of Scottsville.
“What are we having for supper, baby?," Hogue recently asked his wife Kim, while being visited by a reporter.
"We’re having leftovers from last night," she replied. "Tenderloin, and you know how good it is."
"I want fried chicken," he joked.
Until just recently, Morris and Kim Hogue took for granted sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch of their home in rural Allen County.
Their lives were turned upside down on April 10. Morris had taken a day off from work to cut up a downed tree at his mother-in-law’s house.
“It was cool that day, and I go down there and about 15-20 minutes, I run out of breath," Hogue recalled. "I thought it was breathing that cold air. I sit down and my wife asked me what’s wrong, and I said I can’t breathe.”
The next day he went fishing and again struggled to breathe. He got home and could barely shower without gasping for air. That’s when his wife Kim took him to the emergency room. In addition to shortness of breath, Hogue had a fever, both symptoms of COVID-19. He was admitted to the Medical Center in Bowling Green. The next day, his test came back positive for the respiratory illness.
Hogue, a forklift mechanic, believes he contracted the virus at work.
"This is my opinion, I can’t prove it," he said. "I worked on forklifts at one factory in Bowling Green. I have a tablet that I have to have signed every day when I get my work done. I had it signed the 25th of March and the 26th of March, the guy that signed my tablet had the virus.”
Hogue became the first COVID-19 patient from Allen County to be hospitalized, which was also a personal first.
“I’ll be 58-years-old June 18 and I’ve never been sick in my life," he said. "Never been in a hospital, and I ain’t never had nothing get me down like this.”
Morris Hogue spent eight days in the hospital, and while he signed papers allowing him to be placed on a ventilator, the doctors instead used a combination of drugs used to treat other conditions.
“They say people with lupus don’t have the virus, so they give me 16 pills a day for people with lupus, and then they give me some pills for people with malaria," he explained.
Hogue also had to be on his stomach eight hours a day to get oxygen to all parts of his lungs. He said the floor he was on was designated for COVID-19 patients only and the scene like something out of a movie. The doctors and nurses were suited up, in his words, like space aliens.
“You couldn’t see nobody’s face. From top to bottom, you couldn’t see nothing," Hogue explained. "They had their uniforms on and they put two pairs of gloves on. Some of them would have a big mask on with oxygen pumping into it covering their whole head.”
Except for the medical workers, Hogue wasn’t allowed visitors. His wife Kim recalled how excruciating it was to not be by her husband’s side when he needed her most.
“The doctor would call every day, but it’s not like seeing him," she said. "Just like one night he took a turn for the worse and I didn’t know until the next morning. It was awful. It was the longest eight days of my life.”
“It’s a bad feeling when you’re in that hospital room staring at four walls and can’t nobody see you but a nurse," Hogue remarked. "You get to thinking about a lot of things, like seeing home again, don’t know if you’re going to see your wife again, your kids, your grandkids.”
Hogue was sent home from the hospital with supplemental oxygen and placed under a two week quarantine. Kim Hogue says the couple’s daily regime included a lot of disinfecting.
“Every day, twice a day, you had to mix up bleach water," she explained. "Everything that was touched, the door knobs, your phone, tv, had to be wiped down twice a day and I did that for two weeks. Lysol was our best friend. We sprayed on top of the bleach.”
His lungs are scarred and he has less stamina, but doctors say Hogue should fully recover in time. The 57-year-old is now off of oxygen and has no restrictions.
As the coronavirus pandemic reaches a turning point and businesses open their doors again to the public, Hogue just hopes there isn’t a second spike in cases. He wants the public to continue to taken precautions with masks and social distancing.
“You see these people on the media joking about this virus and I wish them people could have just a little taste of it, just a little dose to see if it’s worth joking about," Hogue said.
While Hogue has joined the ranks of the recovered, he doubts going out in public will ever be the same.
“Me and my wife have talked about this. I don’t believe things will ever be like they used to be, not for us. I believe we’ll do things differently," commented Hogue. "I mean we love to go out and eat a good meal, but it makes you think twice about going in a restaurant, crowded elbow to elbow. I just don’t think it will ever be the same.”
Hogue got a second chance, a privilege not granted to nearly 400 Kentuckians who have died from the coronavirus. He is grateful and hoping to never experience the misery, uncertainty, and loneliness of the illness ever again.