KANSAS CITY, MO. – The first person to test positive for COVID-19 in Riley County, Kansas, reflects on his virus journey and what life was like for him a year ago.
“At the end of those 10 days, things started to run a little … it felt like something wasn’t quite right,” said Andrew Smith.
Smith is a professor at Kansas State University. Around this time last year he was on a trip abroad with his family and some students in London. This trip would change his life forever.
“We got off on one of the last flights out of Europe to go back to the US. At the time, I wasn’t feeling very well and my family wasn’t feeling well,” said Smith.
But while in London, the group took precautions such as frequent hand washing and disinfecting. Smith said at the time no one was talking about social distancing.
The family would be quarantined when they landed. So they asked a friend to park a car at the airport so they wouldn’t have any contact with anyone.
“We literally drove into the driveway that night and when I pull the luggage out of the car I start coughing so badly that I have to take one knee,” said Smith.
Smith and his entire family felt sick. He was the worst of them all, with a fever of 103 degrees and shortness of breath. He called their GP who suggested they go to the emergency room for an examination.
They were all tested, but Smith said the hospital processed his results only because he was the sickest and the lab was afraid of being overrun.
“Three days later, after struggling at home to even breathe with a fever in 103 close to 104, we finally got the test back as positive for me,” said Smith.
He was the first in Riley County to test positive for COVID-19 and hospitalized.
The county announced its first case. To allay some fears, Smith posted a video in the intensive care unit describing what symptoms he was having and how they took every precaution to stop the virus from spreading.
“When we returned to the US, we did everything we could to make sure we weren’t contacting people,” said Smith.
He told 41 Action News that he wanted to make sure people knew he was being careful.
“We didn’t end up having a community spreading this when we were tracking it,” said Smith.
At the same time, the University of Kansas Health System had its first patient. On Monday, doctors pondered what they discovered over the past year.
“We learned about new science and medicine. We learned about new safety protocols and procedures that have worked well to keep our patients and our staff safe,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of the University of Kansas Health Systems Infection Prevention and Control said.
Smith is also considering his trip. For the next few weeks, he tweeted every day about what he did exactly a year ago.
He does this in the hope that people will see his story and get an overview of those long 12 months.
“Now I just hope that when I tell this story people will look back on their own story and say that either this was lucky for me, that I – that we survived, that we got this far, or at least look back and say what we’ve learned, “said Smith.
From Monday morning Riley County has 47 active COVID-19 cases. The district reports a total of 6,231 positive cases of the virus. More than 4,300 people have been vaccinated on the county’s COVID-19 website.