Recovered? If the topic is COVID-19, the term is subjective as it applies to people like the Vaughns


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Kern County Department of Public Health reports that more than 19,000 local residents have recovered from COVID-19. But the word “recovered” has different shades of meaning.

Every day local media reports the number of new cases, the total number of deaths and the cumulative number of recovered patients. But is recovered really recovered? Take Al Vaughn, for example.

Al is in pretty good shape for a man of 74. Good enough shape that this past March, he took home a first-place medal from the Los Angeles Marathon, winning the 13.1-mile half-marathon in his age group.

But he took home something else, too: A case of COVID-19.

Had the marathon been scheduled a week later it would have been cancelled, but no one knew the scope of the pandemic at the time. And Vaughn became just 10th confirmed case of COVID-19 in Kern County. And his wife of 52 years, Joyce, became the 11th. Nine months later, Kern County has had nearly 55,000 cases.

Kern has also seen nearly 500 deaths, and Al Vaughn came close to being among them. He was hospitalized 56 days, and that took its toll.

“I’m right handed and I couldn’t even raise this arm,” he said. “… Over the course of it in the hospital I lost about 35, 40 pounds — and it was muscle.”

He couldn’t swallow for three weeks after returning home, either, taking his meals from an IV drip. He is still doing breathing treatments three times a day at the kitchen table. But he now he is part much more desirable tabulation — that of “recovered.”

But he is hardly recovered.

Same with wife Joyce. She was hospitalized for eight days, but six weeks after returning home she took a blindfolded taste test.

“My daughter gave me something to bite — two different things — and I had to tell her what they were,” she said. “She gave me a chunk of apple — no idea — and a chunk of onion. Couldn’t tell the difference.”

Joyce, too, is classified as recovered — even though she can’t feel the floor as she walks, so serious is the numbness in her feet.

They’re both better — much better. But the ordeal isn’t over yet. “Recovered” isn’t the same as pre-COVID-19.

Al Vaughn plans to go back to the L.A. Marathon and defend his age-group title in the half-marathon. It won’t be in 2021. But the year after? Don’t count him out.

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