Rich Sleezer

Of all the Coronavirus-19 solutions and recommendations, Rich Sleezer believes the most effective is simply putting others first. The mask wearing, hand sanitizing, social distancing and quarantining are all just part of looking out for one another.

Sleezer, Chair of Physical Sciences at Emporia State, was unexpectedly diagnosed with COVID-19 after months of doing nearly everything he felt he could to keep himself and others safe.

“I thought I was being careful,” Sleezer said. “I was wearing a mask when I was in public. I was washing my hands frequently, I was not doing sketchy behavior. For instance, I have not been in a sit down restaurant since March. Other than carry out or drive thrus I have not eaten out this whole time.” 

Sleezer believes he caught the virus riding in a hospital elevator with someone who was talking on the phone without wearing a mask. Sleezer’s wife had surgery on Thursday, July 9. The following Monday, he thought he felt allergy symptoms, dealing with sneezing and a runny nose. Within a few days, the benign symptoms became nearly impossible to bear.

“Still my symptoms are the same,” Sleezer said. “Runny nose, sneezing (and) no fever. Tuesday night I started having fever and chills...I had the worst headache I think I’ve ever had, I had to shut off all the lights, shut all the curtains and get it as completely dark as I could and just curl up in a ball because my eyes were so sensitive to light. It just felt like somebody was stabbing me in the eyes. It was really brutal.”

Sleezer emphasizes how symptoms are benigne at first, which is why he says it is so important to stay home from the get go rather than risking infecting everyone else. This was a huge struggle for Sleezer because his wife was in need of care following her surgery.

“The hardest part was the two days before I got diagnosed when (my wife) needed help and I didn’t feel like it was safe for me to be in the room with her,” said Sleezer. “I didn't feel like I was maybe doing my job as a husband to maybe be there for her. So that was tough. I did what I had to do.”

What Sleezer learned through his experience is how seriously people need to be taking the pandemic, especially with schools opening in person this fall and ESU having opened last Monday.

“Quarantining works,” said Sleezer. “If you can totally quarantine yourself from other people the odds that you’ll give it to someone else are immensely reduced, maybe down to almost zero...It can start out as something really simple like a sneeze, but if you have an unusual number of sneezes then it’s time to start the protocol right then.”

All of these tasks—wearing masks, quarantining when necessary, washing hands, and being aware of symptoms are all small acts of kindness Sleezer feels we owe each other along with holding each other accountable and offering support to those we can.

“I’m a fan of the people who live by the idea that you pass it forward,” Sleezer said. “If somebody helps you out, help them out. That’s how you pay it back. I’d like to think that ESU and Emporia as a community really operate that way. Many do but we still have to hold each other accountable.”

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