Local respiratory therapist tests positive for COVID-19 6 consecutive times

Posted at 12:58 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 20:34:06-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dylan Garcia first tested positive for COVID-19 more than a week before Kansas City instituted its stay-at-home order.

“I just thought it was just the yearly flu,” Garcia said. “I had the same symptoms as the flu. And then, after day four or five of fever, I knew it wasn't flu. I knew that it was something else.”

Garcia works as a respiratory therapist at St. Luke's East Hospital, and said they weren't really even seeing coronavirus patients when he tested positive in mid-March. He's got a baby at home, so he quarantined in his basement for two weeks.

“I feel like I had so much going on,” Garcia said. “I had the fever and chills, aches, sore throat, congestion, a cough, and that never let up. So, I was getting about an hour of sleep at night for almost two weeks.”

Garcia’s fever persisted, and so did his positive tests. Over the course of several weeks, he tested positive for COVID-19 six consecutive times. His wife and child never had symptoms, but he was stuck at home.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson from the University of Kansas Health System told 41 Action News it's not really surprising that patients like Garcia are testing positive for the virus weeks after their symptoms start. What's not known, he said, is how long those people are contagious.

“In South Korea there's been reports that people are reinfected or having symptoms again,” Hawkinson said. “On the very early reports, although they aren't published, they've tested 39 people, and they cultured six that are final and they weren't able to detect any new virus or any live or infectious virus.”

Garcia had a fever above 100 degrees for two weeks, and lost his senses of taste and smell.

After six weeks at home, Garcia eventually tested negative twice, even though his taste of smell has not completely returned.

He was able to return to work at the hospital, where he's been caring for COVID-19 patients.

His experience has already helped him talk with someone dealing with the virus.

“She (a patient) mentioned that no one understands, no one understands,” Garcia said. “So I actually explained it to her and had a good little conversation.”

Garcia said face masks hadn't become the norm when he was originally diagnosed. Now, he wears one any time he's not at home, and he hopes others, even as states and businesses reopen, make the same choice.

“I'm not one to tell them what to do,” Garcia said. “You know, I would just inform them it's good to know what's best for others. I mean not just them, but you know the potential of what you can give someone else down the road.”

Garcia said he's planning to donate plasma, but has to wait until he's symptom-free for 28 days before he can do so.

Dylan Garcia reached out to 41 Action News after seeing our story about Courtney Klema.

Klema, a 25-year-old dietitian in Kansas City, has tested positive for coronavirus four consecutive times.