Recent BYU grad details ‘exhausting’ battle with COVID

Recent BYU graduate Connor Hoopes, 24, takes a selfie in a hospital bed during a visit to the emergency room with COVID-related health complications. (Connor Hoopes)

Recent BYU economics graduate Connor Hoopes, 24, wasn’t too surprised when he tested positive for COVID-19 back in June. He had been experiencing aches, chills, a heavy cough and chest pain during the days leading up to his test.

What did surprise Hoopes, however, was the “exhausting” months-long battle with the virus that has since taken place.

“My perspective has definitely changed,” Hoopes said. “I always knew the virus was significant from the beginning, but this has been eye-opening for me.”

The American Fork native did start to feel a little better in the days following his positive test, as some of the more severe symptoms began to subside. Hoopes, who considers himself an active person and had no pre-existing health conditions, was confident he would soon return to full strength.

But eight days after Hoopes first started feeling ill, his condition took a turn for the worse. Hoopes had decided to go for a drive and was singing along to some of his favorite tunes when his breath was suddenly taken from him.

“It was so strange, I couldn’t sing or say anything because I ran out of air,” Hoopes said. “I got home and was just completely exhausted. The next day I was still exhausted. My chest started hurting, I was dizzy and I didn’t have any energy to move or do anything.”

Hoopes called his doctor but was unable to schedule an appointment since he still had the virus. After receiving a similar response from urgent care, Hoopes dragged himself to the emergency room at Utah Valley Hospital.

The hospital staff performed a series of tests and x-rays on Hoopes and hooked him up to an IV. After spending over four hours in the emergency room, the staff told Hoopes they couldn’t find anything wrong with his results.

“I was like, ‘OK,'” Hoopes said. “I feel like absolute trash and can hardly breathe right now but OK.”

Hoopes returned home to rest and slowly started to recover once again in the weeks that followed. Despite his effort to limit physical activity, Hoopes would still run out of breath from walking down the street or around the block. His chest pains also began to return more intense than before.

Hoopes finally decided to meet with his doctor in August, who prescribed him an inhaler with albuterol solution. When that didn’t yield much help, Hoopes met with his doctor again about a month later.

“(My doctor) gave me these steroid pills, but they didn’t do anything to help my lungs,” Hoopes said. “And my chest got so bad, it hurt so much I could barely breathe just sitting there, not having done anything. This is three months after the fact, I was in pain just from sitting there.”

Soon after the appointment and as his condition continued to worsen, Hoopes decided to check himself into the Utah Valley Clinic InstaCare to get some more help. After performing additional blood tests, x-rays and an EKG, the staff once again told Hoopes his results were normal. He was told to continue to rest and that there was nothing else they could really do to help.

Hoopes, who started an MBA program at the University of Utah in September, has continued to visit with his doctor from time to time and even met recently with a pulmonary specialist. Although no one has yet to find any issues with his various scans and test results, his doctor did prescribe him a stronger steroid inhaler that has seemed to help.

Hoopes has shown some signs of improvement but continues to struggle with shortness of breath and occasional chest pain. He admits he never imagined the virus could have caused so much distress and lasted this long for anyone his age, especially those without any pre-existing health conditions.

“I’ve just come to realize how dangerous (COVID) really is,” Hoopes said. “I hope people can understand that it’s a lot more serious than some may think. It’s not a fun experience at all.”

Hoopes hopes people of all ages can take the proper precautions to help slow the virus’s spread.

“What hurts is when people are like, ‘Well, people aren’t dying,'” Hoopes said. “If you look at my situation, I’m a 24-year-old who had no pre-existing conditions and I’m still suffering because of this virus. I feel like this time is going to be a lot shorter than people are making it out to be. We can succeed together, but it’s going to take all of us making a really tough, consistent effort.”

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