Amid coronavirus pandemic, a theology for not ‘assembling’
OKLAHOMA CITY — Well, this is awkward. We are used…
It was the worst, Tim Pyles said, he has ever felt.
After at least two weeks of misery, the 57-year-old minister for the Broken Arrow Church of Christ in Oklahoma is enjoying feeling like himself again.
“It feels good to feel good,” he said.
Diagnosed with COVID-19 in March, Pyles spent several days on the verge of needing to be hospitalized.
“He was sicker than he’d been in 33 years of marriage,” Kim Pyles said about her husband.
It all started around March 13. Fatigue, body aches, persistent headache — symptoms he didn’t think much of, at first. Three days later, more symptoms hit: a fever, chills, sweats and a loss of taste.
“Everything tastes like metal,” Tim told his wife.
By March 18, he was getting worse. The couple contacted their doctor and were told to come in for testing. A flu test quickly came back negative. They swabbed him for the coronavirus, but because his test had to be sent out of state, it would be 12 days before the results were known.
He was told to go home and isolate, just in case.
Within a day, the couple’s 27-year-old son, Coleman, began showing symptoms as well. Coleman is nonverbal and is diagnosed with autism and other health issues.
Just a few days later, Coleman was also tested for COVID-19.
By that point, Oklahoma had more testing available, which meant Coleman’s results were processed more quickly. Within 24 hours, it was confirmed he had tested positive for the coronavirus. This was extremely concerning to the family because Coleman has a history of respiratory issues.
“I was frightened,” Kim said. “It has nothing to do with faith. You’re sleepy. You start thinking things you shouldn’t, and you just pray and have a constant dialogue with God about the situation.”
During the same time, Lawrence Fuggett, 42, a member of the Wilshire Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, found himself fighting the virus.
Fuggett’s symptoms started the same weekend as Pyle’s — fatigue, a cough “that wouldn’t go away.”
“It was a weird cough,” he said.
Within days, he began vomiting. He was sleeping a lot. When he was awake, he could barely hold himself up.
It progressed to the point where his wife, Joy, knew she had to call 911.
“It was very obvious that he couldn’t make it on his own,” Joy said.
Fuggett is diabetic and has high blood pressure. When he got to the hospital, those were the main concerns of the doctors. He was admitted into intensive care.
Lawrence was in ICU for two days before doctors realized he had pneumonia. It was then that they tested him for COVID-19 and moved him to an isolation room, despite not having the results.
He was never put on a ventilator, but he was incredibly ill.
“This was the longest I’ve ever been sick like that,” he said. “It was like something out of a movie. I’d never seen anything like that. It was pretty bad.”
“We’re just all so thankful that we have the outcome we have. We are hyper aware that not everyone is so lucky.”
Joy wasn’t allowed to go with him. Hospital visitation rules were strictly enforced. So she was forced to stay at home, with their two children, waiting for updates via text or phone call.
Just talking about it brings her to tears.
“It was a rough few days,” she said. “We’re just all so thankful that we have the outcome we have. We are hyper aware that not everyone is so lucky.”
Just two days after doctors tested for the coronavirus, Lawrence was sent home. It wasn’t until the next day that he received a call from health officials confirming that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
His family has no idea where he would have contracted the virus. He had been working from home since the beginning of the month, and they had made very few trips out of the house.
“I look back on it now, and even a couple weeks before, there were a couple tasting things, like soda pop tasted funny,” he said. “Like a lemon-lime flavor tasted weird.”
It’s the same for the Pyles family. They have no idea where or how Tim contracted the virus.
“Obviously, community spread was going on,” he said. “I don’t know anyone else that has tested positive other than Coleman.”
“It was a crisis for our family.”
Tim was never hospitalized, although Kim said he likely should have been.
Church members filled the family’s porch with meals and Gatorade, to help Tim and Coleman stay hydrated. A group of young ladies drew pictures and wrote encouraging comments with chalk on the family’s driveway, hoping to lift their spirits.
“I appreciate the way people come through in a crisis,” Kim said. “It was a crisis for our family.”
Both families say they hope that others will take COVID-19 seriously and realize that the virus is not just the flu or something like it. They also urge others to take the advice of government officials and stay home.
“The best outcome is we do all this, and we end up saying, ‘Wow, we avoided what could have been really bad,’” Lawrence said.
“I’ve never been that sick for that long in my adult life,” Tim said. “While I’m grateful for a full recovery, we will continue to follow the regulations on distancing.”
Coleman has also made a full recovery.
Interestingly, Tim’s COVID-19 test results came back March 30, confirming he did have the coronavirus. However, at that point, he said he was “back at 100 percent.”
Tim said he is grateful that neither he nor Coleman had to be hospitalized.
“Observe the regulations and restrictions. They are all there for a reason.”
As for their wives, Kim has so far managed to stay well, despite being exposed to the virus. Joy believes it’s possible that her whole family had it, due to various symptoms they all had during that time. However, no other family members were tested.
Tim said he is grateful for the prayers that were said on behalf of his family. Now he asks that everyone pray for others touched by this pandemic.
“Pray for those on the frontlines of treatment,” he said. “Observe the regulations and restrictions. They are all there for a reason.”
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