Couple talks about their experience with coronavirus

(This story has been updated)

OKEECHOBEE — Rodney and Becky Rucks have both been diagnosed with COVID-19 and, after about a week of feeling pretty lousy, finally had the energy to share their story.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
OKEECHOBEE — Becky and Rodney Rucks contracted COVID-19 while in Chicago for treatments for Becky’s migraines.

Approximately three weeks ago, they went to Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, because Mrs. Rucks suffers from chronic daily migraines. She had been suffering from the latest migraine for about a month, Mr. Rucks explained, and they went up to see the neurologist for a treatment. While they were there, they were restricted to one floor and could leave the room very little. “It was quite an interesting trip to Chicago,” he said. “Something to tell our grandkids about. It was right in the middle of the riots, too, so we can tell our grandkids we were in the middle of the riots and we caught the COVID while we were there,” he laughed.

When they got home and Mrs. Rucks began running a fever, they knew they had to take it seriously, because of her medical history. In 2016, she had two forms of breast cancer and lymphoma, which they feared would compromise her immune system. That, combined with the recent travel, was enough to convince her doctor she should be tested right away. This was on Friday afternoon, June 5. She went to the health department and had her test done.

The following day was her birthday, and about 2:30 a.m., she fell and broke her ankle. She twisted one ankle and cracked the other, and they wound up in the emergency room. At that time, she had no fever and thought, OK, maybe it was just a little flu or cold and now it’s gone.

However, on Sunday, they got her results, and they were positive, so they sent Mr. Rucks to be tested. By Sunday evening, he was having chills and a terrible cough, and she was coughing. She started running a fever again on Monday. Strangely enough, he has not run a fever at all, but he alternates between chills and night sweats. They have both noticed it kills all of their energy level and their bodies ache all over. “It’s a struggle to get to the bathroom and back or to go get ice for her ankle,” he said. They also have no sense of smell or taste. “It’s completely gone. It’s the weirdest thing ever.” Because of this, they have eaten very little. He has also struggled with nausea, so this makes eating very difficult.

They said the coughing is horrible. You go through a coughing spell and can’t stop and all the muscles in your ribs, back, stomach and chest hurt so bad. They are exhausted. They have an adjustable bed, so this helps them to be able to sleep, because it would be difficult to sleep lying flat.

Their two sons, ages 16 and 21, are still at home, but are staying mostly in the bedroom. When they come out, they wear masks and try to stay as safe as possible. They have been tested and are not showing any symptoms. They are quarantined for two weeks because they have been exposed to their parents.

Their animals seem to sense they are sick and want to be with them, but they are trying to stay away from them, too, so they don’t take any chance of passing it on to them, said Mr. Rucks.

For the most part, they have been able to stay home throughout their illness, but Mrs. Rucks did have to go back to the emergency room Monday, June 8, because she was having chest pains, and she had taken another fall. She wanted to have her ankle X-rayed again to make sure it wasn’t damaged any further. They did the X-ray and checked her lungs, and sent her home. One of their friends picked up a pulse oxygen meter and left it at their front door for them so they could keep track of that, especially after a coughing fit, he said. They were told if their pulse oxygen got below 90, they should go back to the hospital.

One of the most interesting aspects of this situation, Mr. Rucks said, was trying to run a campaign during this. Mr. Rucks is running for supervisor of elections. Last week was qualifying week, and he had to have papers signed and notarized to get turned in. “That was a feat all in itself,” he said. One of their neighbors is a friend and a notary. She had to physically watch him sign the papers, so when she got home, they took their golf cart down to her house, and he signed on the trunk of her car, while she watched from the hood. They put the papers in a manila envelope and put it on the back seat of her car. She did not touch it for over 24 hours before notarizing it and taking it to the office of Diane Hagan to be turned in. “It was a mess, but we got it done.”

Although they were fairly certain they contracted the virus at some time on their trip to Chicago, they were not sure if it was at the airport or the hospital, but on June 14, they received a phone call from the Chicago hospital letting them know a staff member they had been in contact with tested positive for the virus on May 31.

Update : On Wednesday, June 17, Mr. Rucks was admitted to Raulerson Hospital. His wife said they gave him Remdesivir through an IV, and he is on oxygen and breathing treatments. They plan to begin giving him convalescent plasma (from people who have recovered from the virus) on Thursday. She asks that everyone continue to pray for her husband and for her as they battle this illness.

Update: Mr. Rucks was admitted to the ICU on Thursday, June 18. Mrs. Rucks was told he has abnormal pneumonia in both lungs which is consistent with COVID-19. He is very weak. On Saturday, he was excited to hear that his brother Chad Rucks was on a street corner wearing one of his (Rodney’s) shirts and holding a “Vote for Rodney” sign. “It was a total surprise and almost made me cry,” Mr. Rucks said. His brother said he feels helpless and this is a way he can actually do something.

The main thing Mr. Rucks wants the community to know about the coronavirus is that it is very sneaky and random. A piece of good news is that Mrs. Rucks was feeling well enough to go get tested on Saturday morning to see if the virus is out of her system. She asks that everyone continue to pray for the family and thanks everyone for the prayers they have given already.

Mr. Rucks works for the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office and has to test negative twice before he can go back to work. He is scheduled to be tested again on June 22.

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