“It’s not something to fool around with”: Weeks after contracting COVID-19, businessman Richard Tetrick still hospitalized

Local Coronavirus Coverage

Bristol, Tenn (WJHL) — From his hospital room where, for weeks, he’s been tethered to an oxygen supply and under the close watch of doctors and nurses, Richard Tetrick said he hopes everyone understands the truth about COVID-19.

“It’s not something to fool around with,” Tetrick said, holding back a cough and struggling at times to breathe. It’s the daily reality for the prominent Tri-Cities business leader a month after he contracted the virus from a friend with whom he spent time at a lunch and for about 15 minutes in a car.

“That was on a Monday,” Tetrick said. “And by the following Friday, I was really sick.”

For a man with no history of medical problems, the symptoms at first seemed manageable.

“I had no energy,” he said. “I had no appetite. I did not have a fever. I never lost my sense of taste or smell. But other people have had the total opposite. It just affects people in different ways.”

But on Sept. 30, almost two weeks after exposure, Tetrick, who lives in Elizabethton, said he developed a high fever, and his condition deteriorated. His wife Norma, who tested positive despite having no symptoms, called an ambulance to rush him to the hospital where he spent eight days in intensive care.

“We men have a hard time admitting when we need help,” he said. “I think I waited too late to go to the hospital, but I’m so thankful my wife was there to help me.”

Richard and Norma Tetrick, seen here during a recent overseas trip, both contracted COVID-19. He remains hospitalized. She never developed symptoms. (Image submitted by Tetrick family)

For the past three weeks, Tetrick, the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Operating LLC, which includes Tetrick Funeral Home and other businesses, has been mostly confined to his hospital bed unable to have visitors. He’s now out of the COVID-19 unit and receiving therapy in an effort to clear his lungs and help him restore his strength.

“It doesn’t take much to wear me out,” he said.

But he’s quick to add that he’s better off than many others who, like him, contracted COVID-19 and went on to develop serious health complications.

“I really want to understand why some people who get it have almost no symptoms and others like me get really sick,” he said.

And he said his time in isolation has made him keenly aware of the suffering of nursing home patients and their families, many who haven’t had personal contact for months.

“My 23 days is nothing compared to what those people have gone through,” Tetrick said.

Tetrick revealed he’s lost three employees to COVID-19.

“Our world will never be the same,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have lost family members.”

He offered high praise for the Ballad Health medical staff who he says are working long hours to care for patients and cover for co-workers who are in isolation or quarantine.

He urged people to wear masks, remain socially distant, frequently wash their hands and seek medical attention quickly if they develop symptoms.

“This is something people can not take lightly,” Tetrick said. “It’s very serious.”

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