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EXCLUSIVE: 4J employee, widower of COVID-19 victim speaks out

Brian Alexander lost his wife to COVID-19 and then learned he was positive, as well. Tune in tonight at 5 & 6 for the exclusive story of his loss and hope, only on KEZI 9 News.

Posted: Mar 28, 2020 12:39 PM
Updated: Mar 30, 2020 1:28 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Brian Alexander lost his wife to COVID-19 -- and then learned he was positive as well.

The two took a trip to Mercer Island, Washington, for a memorial service -- and that's where the story begins.

Brian says he woke up one morning with a 101 degree fever, but with some medicine, the fever broke.

The next morning, the same thing happened.

When it happened a third time, he went to see a doctor not even thinking it could be coronavirus.

"I tried to get in at my free clinic through the school district, and they said they didn't have any openings," he said.

Brian works maintenance in the shop for Eugene School District 4J and drives bus routes when needed.

He called his doctor's office and was told they didn't have the ability to isolate him.

"I ended up going to the urgent care on West 11th," he said. "I went in and told them my symptoms, and I was checked out by a nurse who checked my temperature and checked my oxygen levels and listened to my chest. They basically said 'oh he's fine, he doesn't have the symptoms.'"

But they were wrong.

After a chest X-Ray came out clear, he was diagnosed with bacterial bronchitis. He was then prescribed antibiotics and sent on his way.

At this point, he was confident he was in the clear.

"Everything we had heard about coronavirus was that it just ravaged your body and it was just a horrible horrible disease," he said.

He was even told by the doctor that 48 hours after he started antibiotics he could go back to work and be just fine.

He said he never would have gone if he had known.

Then the unthinkable happened.

MaryKay woke up with a fever, so he tried the same things he had tried, calling doctors and getting no answers.

That night things got worse.

"I noticed she was making noises, breathing both in and out and sadly it kind of irritated me."

The next morning, he knew she needed help but by then it was too late.

"I was kind of prodding her saying you need to get up -- and she said 'help me up' so I tried to help her get her feet on the floor and then she collapsed on the ground," he said. "She's trying her darndest to get back up and she couldn't do it. At one point I tried to get her legs back under her. So, I get her legs back under her and at one point she laid back to rest to try one last time to get back up. Then, I noticed she wan't breathing."

He called 911 and dispatch led him through steps on how to perform CPR.

"Mind you I have my CPR card," he said. "But there's a difference between doing CPR in the field and doing it on your wife."

When paramedics finally arrived, they performed CPR for 16 minutes. They even got her heart back working, but Brian knew she was gone.

"She just wasn't there anymore," he said. "I guess I was hoping in my heart of hearts that she would come back, but she didn't."

He says that left him with the most questions.

"The ease came when I got my wife's test results," he said. "I couldn't understand how she just passed away within a number of hours from respiratory issues she had been having since September."

In the weeks following, Brian took to Facebook to play music in his home during what he called "socially distant fest" honoring his wife -- the best way he knows how.

He said his experience needs to be shared so that others know the true danger of the coronavirus.

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Data is updated nightly.

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