“We thought it was just like the flu and it’s no big deal”, local COVID-19 survivor urges community to get vaccinated

ROGUE RIVER, Ore. — A Rogue River man is urging the community to get vaccinated after he nearly lost his fight against COVID-19 a month ago.

“It’s changed our life considerably, and not in a good way,” said COVID survivor, Rick Fielder.

After his wife went on a fishing trip with her cousin, Rick soon learned his wife’s cousin was diagnosed with the virus. His wife, Sherry, became sick first but she was asymptomatic.

Her symptoms spread to Rick, who at first thought he was okay. “We thought it was just like the flu and it’s no big deal,” he said.

He noticed symptoms around July 6th and by July 12th — only 6 days later — he was in the emergency room.

“While in the hospital, I had COVID, pneumonia, and 2 heart attacks… all caused by COVID,” Rick said.

Rick was in the hospital for a month, while Sherry sat at home, still sick herself, wondering how he was recovering.

“I was banned from the hospital, I had to sit here – I couldn’t even talk to him for a little over a week, so that was frightening because I didn’t know what was going on,” she said.

For Rick, he wondered if he was witnessing his last days alive. His heart was only using 15 – 20% of its output, he lost his appetite and he says the worst part is the mental anguish that he suffered.

“[I] was very confused, couldn’t follow directions. My wife was telling me to eat and somehow that didn’t sink in. You know, I’ve never experienced anything like that,” he said.

Rick has now been home for 2 days recovering, after moving to Avamere at Three Fountains in Medford for rehab.

He says COVID-19 is worse than going through esophageal cancer, “I had an esophagectomy, where they take your esophagus out and build a new one out of the top third of your stomach… but COVID? Way worse than that.”

Both Rick and Sherry highly recommend people get vaccinated against COVID if they haven’t yet.

“It’s unfortunate that so many people distrust our government and feel that they’re being pushed into this, and I was one of them. But, it’s here, it’s real, and it needs to be dealt with,” said Sherry.

Rick is now waiting to get vaccinated once he’s medically cleared to do so.

His wife has already gotten the vaccine since recovering.

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Mariah Mills
NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology. In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she's not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
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