One COVID-19 story: An 'unpredictable virus'

November 17, 2020

Image with caption: Gary Yee, PharmD

Gary Yee, PharmD

In early July, Gary Yee, PharmD, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and leader of the Office of Faculty Affairs, was hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana with his wife, Esther. He climbed mountains, marveled at vistas. He felt strong.

He filled his lungs with crisp, pristine air.

picture disc.
Gary Yee, PharmD, and his wife, Esther, at Glacier National Park in Montana.

In late July, he started to have some general flulike symptoms. Some fever, chills, myalgias. "I felt like I was getting a cold," Dr. Yee said.

He powered through it, handled it at home. But it didn't get better. Finally, he got a COVID-19 test. Negative. "I was relieved," Dr. Yee said. But he still didn't get better. A few days later, he got tested again.

It came back positive.

He was sick, but managing OK. But, by the end of the week, he was worse. Short of breath. He consulted his primary care physician, Mike Sitorius, MD. Dr. Yee's oxygen levels started to drop.

He was admitted into the hospital on July 31.

If you didn't previously know anyone who has had a really bad case of COVID-19 -- now you do.

He was discharged Sept. 1.

Today, Dr. Yee still has difficulty breathing. You can hear it when he speaks.

"My recovery at home has been mostly about getting stronger," he said. He exercises every day, has a physical therapist come in. He tries to eat everything he can, to get back some of the 35 pounds he lost.

He's grateful that he was healthy, in good shape, when COVID-19 hit him.

Eventually, in the hospital, he was moved to the ICU. His lungs needed high-dose oxygen therapy. He spent time on a CPAP machine.

About a week in, he had trouble breathing in the middle of the night. He remembers it, the nurse saying if the CPAP doesn't work, he would have to go on a ventilator. It was scary.

"Just gasping for air is one of the worst feelings I think one can have," he said. The sensation was almost like drowning.

Thankfully, he avoided the ventilator.

Now, he's out of danger. He's home. But, "It's just taking time," Dr. Yee said.

He said: "I'm generally an optimistic person. I understand what happened. I have a really supportive spouse and family. A whole group of friends." His faith, his church. His UNMC family, who have covered his responsibilities so he doesn't push himself to do more than he can do.

Yes, you see all these people with mild, or even asymptomatic cases. Dr. Yee sees that too.

"And here I am," he said, "with a very different course."

What would he tell people?

"Take it seriously because you don't know how this disease is going to affect you. You don't know if you are going to be the one to experience a more serious course.

"It's an unpredictable virus," Dr. Yee said.

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November 20, 2020 at 5:12 PM

Hope each day you become stronger. Take care.

Josh Linville
November 20, 2020 at 12:42 AM

Praying for your recovery Uncle Gary. - Josh L.

Kristy Carlson
November 18, 2020 at 2:39 PM

Thank you for sharing your personal story. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

John Keenan
November 17, 2020 at 2:53 PM

Thank you for sharing your story, Dr. Yee.

Tom O'Connor
November 17, 2020 at 2:49 PM

Hope you make a complete recovery, Gary. Hang in there. Hope your story will make everyone take the virus more seriously.

Mickie Deline
November 17, 2020 at 2:42 PM

We prayed for you. We are relatives of Elise and Lee Pavelka. God bless. Mickie and Don Deline

Suhasini Kotcherlakota
November 17, 2020 at 10:46 AM

Thank you for sharing your experience and a great message of caution Dr. Yee. Wishing you a quick recovery.

Sarah Gloden Carlson
November 17, 2020 at 10:03 AM

Thank you for sharing your story, Dr. Yee. I am so glad to know you are continuing to feel better, and hope you are feeling 100 percent, soon!

Ken Cowan
November 17, 2020 at 9:49 AM

Best wishes for a full recovery. All the best!

Patrick Wortmann
November 17, 2020 at 9:47 AM

Glad to hear you are feeling better Dr. Yee. Thank you for your continued support, even while in the hospital :)

Terri
November 17, 2020 at 9:25 AM

Glad you are on the mend, Dr. Yee. Keep stong!

Emily McElroy
November 17, 2020 at 8:54 AM

Dr. Yee, I am so glad you are recovering. We have been rooting for you!

JOANNE T BONIFANT
November 17, 2020 at 8:51 AM

I'm a good friend of Esther and saw the progress of Dr. Yee's slow recovery first hand. Their faith is genuine and encouraging. Recovery is a team effort. We watch on the sideline and continue to pray, Gary.

Carol Russell
November 17, 2020 at 8:03 AM

Glad to read that you are on the road to recovery. Sorry you had to go through all of that. Looking forward to your possible return to the SRC. Carol Russell

David Finken, MD
November 17, 2020 at 8:02 AM

Thank you for sharing your experience. My best wishes for your continued recovery.

Catherine Mello
November 17, 2020 at 7:52 AM

Wishing you a full recovery, Dr. Yee. I am hopeful your story will continue to remind others to take this virus seriously.

Laura Bashus
November 17, 2020 at 7:34 AM

So glad you are on the road to recovery, Dr. Yee!

Cathy Binstock
November 17, 2020 at 7:11 AM

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I hope this will help others to see how devastating the disease can be. Prayers with you and your family.

Ann Anderson Berry
November 17, 2020 at 7:09 AM

Best wishes for a complete recovery. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

Nikki Carritt
November 17, 2020 at 6:45 AM

Thank you for sharing your experience, Dr. Yee. Sending you continued well wishes for a full recovery at home.

Dele Davies
November 17, 2020 at 5:15 AM

Thanks for your courage and for sharing your story Gary! All of UNMC is rooting for you to have a full recovery.