After confining herself to her east Cobb bedroom for two weeks to recover from a COVID-19 infection, state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick said she wants people to know they will get through this pandemic and that most folks are going to be fine.


Kay Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick, who is also a physician, said she first noticed symptoms when she came down with a fever on March 14, a Saturday. She suspects she contracted the virus the prior Thursday, which was Crossover Day in the General Assembly, as she is one of five state senators to become infected.

That Saturday evening she contacted her doctor, and because she was in a high-risk age group — she’s 65 — her doctor arranged for her to be tested the next day. It took about a week for the test results to return, so they operated under the assumption that she had the virus, going into strict isolation in her bedroom to keep her husband and anyone else from getting sick.

“He then would completely put on gloves and a mask and everything if he was coming to drop off something for me to eat, and I seriously did not go out of there for the whole quarantine period. Two weeks.”

Aside from her bedroom, she confined herself to her back porch and office, where nobody else was.

“We took the isolation part of it very seriously which is probably why my husband did not get sick,” she said.

For the fever, she used Tylenol. She said ibuprofen is not recommended to use with a coronavirus fever because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

She also developed a cough.

“It’s a dry cough so you’re not coughing up anything, but just coughing a lot, and what I found is the more I talk, the more I cough. The cough is frustrating as any cough would be.”

That was pretty much it as far as symptoms went. She never felt completely wiped out as one does with the flu, but then she didn’t have a lot of energy either. The first fever went away after a couple days and she got a second one a couple days later.

“That’s apparently a common scenario, and it’s probably related to your body’s response to the virus where you get that second wave, and apparently that’s when people can get really sick even if they haven’t been sick the first week,” she said. “I never got short of breath, and any of the other things that would make me think I need to go to the hospital, so that’s why I’ve been saying I’m very lucky.”

She attributes not having a more severe reaction to being fit and healthy and not having any of the underlying conditions like diabetes or heart disease that put people in a higher risk factor.

She used cough drops for her cough until her doctor ordered her an inhaler when she couldn’t get rid of the cough. And that’s all the medicine she took.

“There’s not really any good studies yet about any of the other things that are being put out there, and there are some side effects to some of the things people are using,” she said.

For instance, many people are using or want to use hydroxychloroquine — which is used to treat malaria, among other diseases — as a preventive, even though Kirkpatrick says there’s no evidence that it works in that manner. Still, she said they’re taking in such quantities that people who need it for such things as lupus can’t get it.

Regarding procuring supplies while she and her husband were quarantined, Kirkpatrick had a bunch of neighbors checking in on them and letting the couple know when they were going to the store or pharmacy.

“Checking on people is the neighborly thing to do,” she said.

The senator said she began to feel better around day 11 or 12 after the second fever broke.

“I officially came out of isolation last Sunday and my quarantine period is over,” she said, noting she’s continuing to work from home on conference calls since there’s really no reason for her to go out. Kirkpatrick is a volunteer coordinator for the Georgia Medical Association’s Reserve Corps in addition to serving on Gov. Brian Kemp’s COVID-19 task force’s primary care subcommittee.

“I feel great, I’m just on the phone so much dealing with the different groups I’m participating in that — it just seems to aggravate the cough — but I feel fine. I mean, I’m not going to start going out and doing heavy aerobic exercise at this point because I’m going to go slow but I’m thinking about taking a walk later.”

The pandemic is causing a lot of fear among people, to whom Kirkpatrick says: Rely on the data.

“And really what we are learning is that probably for the vast majority of people, the disease is going to be mild, and it’s going to be over with, and if they have it, they’re going to be immune like I’m immune right now.”

According to everything she’s read, Kirkpatrick says she won’t get the virus again. So if you develop symptoms, follow the instructions and are in good health, you’re likely to be fine. Quarantine yourself and stay away from others, she advises.

“And if they are having shortness of breath, they need to talk to their doctor, and probably that’s the group that needs to go to the emergency room. But a fever and a cough, people don’t need to automatically go somewhere because they have that because they can recover at home,” she said. “I really want to help people understand what they need to do and that you can get through this and most people are going to be fine.”


Dr. John Knox, medical director of the Wellstar Kennestone Emergency Department, and his team: Megan Dawson, Glenda Sams, George Brunson, Dr. Knox, Dr. Derrick Ashong, Nancy Doolittle and Kimberly Dixon.

A PAUSE OF THANKS: As we endure a pandemic not seen in anyone’s memory, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the everyday heroism undertaken by those medical and public safety professionals who stand on the front lines to protect us.

The following is a message Dr. John Knox, medical director at WellStar Kennestone Emergency Department, sent out to his team that we wanted to share with you. Titled in the subject line “A pause to say thank you to our entire ED team,” Dr. Knox wrote:

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, what you are doing is heroic. While others are being instructed to stay in their homes, and rightfully so, you are asked to leave your families and come to work, providing care for patients that you know have the Covid virus. You are asked to listen to their stories and listen to their hearts and lungs, to draw their blood, take their X rays, analyze their lab samples, register them, answer phone calls from their worried families, protect us, push them on stretchers throughout the hospital, intubate and ventilate them, and clean their dirty linens. All of us are anxious about our constant exposure to this disease, yet our team shows up every day and every night to provide excellent care to our sick and anxious patients.

Our community appreciates it. People are donating food, masks and gloves, and searching for more. Nearly every day someone texts me to say that we are in their prayers. As the medical director for this challenging, often chaotic, always interesting place, where saving lives is routine, it is an honor and a privilege to serve alongside you.

These are unprecedented times. Our new ED is on the horizon, offering the opportunity to provide even better care to our grateful community. Thank you for your courageous service to our patients; we will get there.

John Knox


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