Quay Covid-19 patient no stranger to battling
April 15, 2020
TUCUMCARI — Richard Lewis has survived diabetes, two strokes, several heart surgeries and even being struck by lightning. Family members say he’s showing signs of surviving coronavirus as well.
“He has nine lives, I’m sure,” Lewis’ former wife, Jennifer Lewis, said Saturday in an interview during a conference call with Richard’s son, Christopher Lewis, also of Tucumcari.
They revealed some of the details behind the man who may be Quay County’s first confirmed coronavirus case. A county confirmation was announced Saturday by the state Department of Health.
A second Tucumcari resident is hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida. His wife, who apparently doesn’t have the disease, returned to Tucumcari and remains in isolation at her rural home as a precaution.
Richard Lewis, 48, is a Quay Apartments resident who was airlifted April 4 to an Amarillo hospital because of low blood sugar and signs of a possible heart attack. Jennifer Lewis said doctors there found fluid in his lungs and tested him for COVID-19.
On Thursday, management at the Quay Apartments sent a letter to all tenants that a fellow resident had been exposed to or tested positive for coronavirus.
“The affected resident has been advised to follow the guidance of local health officials, including observing an isolation period,” the letter stated.
On Saturday, the state confirmed the first positive case for COVID-19 in Quay County and would investigate it. The Department of Health does not reveal the identity of people who test positive or the town where they reside. The state’s total number of cases also does not include those who may have been transferred to out-of-state hospitals.
Lewis’ former wife, who now lives in Dumas, Texas, said Richard was on a ventilator for four days to help with his breathing and was placed in isolation. She said he’s off the ventilator and has shown enough improvement that he’s likely to be discharged any day now, though his quarantine will continue.
Because no visitors are allowed at the hospital while Lewis battled COVID-19, she said they’ve had telephone chats that were brief because the disease left him exhausted.
Jennifer Lewis consented to the interview Saturday partly because she detected complacency from some people about the disease.
She also reiterated that coronavirus should be approached with caution but not fear.
“I don’t think fear is what we need at this time,” she said. “I think we need to love our neighbor from a distance. Fear is only going to weaken our immune systems and leave us open to illness.”
She said no one is sure where Richard contracted the virus. She noted he’d had visitors at home before his hospitalization, including maintenance workers. She speculated an asymptomatic carrier of the disease unwittingly could have given it to him, especially with his weakened immune system.
She said Richard, a former truck driver who is disabled, is diabetic with high blood pressure, has suffered two strokes, undergone three or four heart surgeries, underwent another surgery for a blood clot and lives with partial paralysis.
As for the lightning story, Jennifer said Richard was struck while driving a pickup truck between Clovis and Tucumcari during a storm in 2007. She said his radio “went crazy,” and he felt a shock. A passerby stopped at the scene to make sure he was all right. Richard checked himself into the nearest hospital so doctors could examine him. He suffered no apparent harm, and physicians noted his heart actually was beating better than before the accident.
When asked what makes Richard tick, Jennifer replied: “He’s a stubborn man. I don’t know if he’s a resilient soul or what.” She added he was “feisty.”
Christopher agreed, saying he nearly had to force-feed him during previous blood-sugar problems and he sometimes didn’t want to take his medications.
In spite of his stubbornness and his health maladies, Jennifer said Richard remains “a very intelligent man.”
“He can retain information,” she said. “He would watch the History Channel from night into day. He holds a lot of information in general.”
Though Richard and Jennifer divorced in 2011, she said she keeps an affable relationship with him, including attending birthday parties.