FORT THOMAS, Ky. — It wasn’t like the flu, Ryan Kellinghaus said Saturday night. It was like trying to breathe underwater.
Kellinghaus, a vice principal at Jones Middle School in Boone County, spent two weeks of late March quarantined in his bedroom with COVID-19. He lost 15 pounds in 10 days, and his fever ran between 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks afterward. His wife, DJ Kellinghaus, served him tea, and kept him on a regiment of cold showers and ice-water baths to fight the fevers.
The couple worried more than once that he would have to be hospitalized.
“I realized during those five days, from March 24 to 29, why so many people had been hospitalized and put on ventilators and there had been deaths,” Ryan said. “I tell people it felt like I had cinder blocks on my chest.”
Now, as he recovers, the family worries that DJ has begun to develop symptoms. She was tested shortly before the family sat down for a Zoom interview with WCPO on Saturday afternoon.
Her results may not arrive for another five days.
“I’ve got almost a little post-traumatic (stress) from this experience,” she said. “And I’m so afraid for everyone, telling everyone, ‘This is so serious. Be really careful. You don’t want this. It’s so scary.’”
Neither of them left the house for anything during Ryan’s illness, he said. Friends and relatives left supplies at their door; their two teenage sons were not allowed to see him, go into the bedroom or use the adjacent bathroom.
Still, DJ said, she worried they would infect someone else.
“Have I cleaned the house enough?” she remembered worrying. “Have I disinfected enough things? Have I wiped enough things down? It’s a frightening thing.”
DJ also works at Jones Middle School, where she teaches English. Transitioning to non-traditional instruction to protect students from transmitting the virus has been hard, Ryan admitted.
But neither he nor his wife was eager to heed some protesters’ calls to return schools — or any other aspect of Kentucky life — to normal operations.
“We’ve really had to learn through this and learn new ways of doing school,” he said. “I think we’ll come through the end of this being better teachers and better educators. We’re finding new ways of doing things, so I think we just have to take things slow.”
DJ said she has her fingers crossed that their family isn’t dealing with a second case of the virus. It’s all she can do until her test results arrive.
In the meantime, she said she wants to caution other Kentuckians to take the threat seriously and listen to families like hers that have experienced COVID-19 firsthand.
“I try not to get overemotional with people, but it’s hard not to be emotional when it was an extremely emotional experience,” she said. “So I tell people that I lived it, and I said, ‘If you don’t know, then you need to read the stories. If you just read the stories, the real stories, you don’t want this in your house.’
There’s a reason why the bottom line is not what’s most important. It’s not about the dollars and the bottom line. It’s about people. Protecting people matters.”