Canby Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator Calvin LeSueur, who was the city employee who contracted Covid-19 at the end of May, is opening up about his experience in the hope that it may help others, as the community, state and nation grapple with the ongoing pandemic.
LeSueur lives in Southwest Portland but has worked for the city of Canby for a couple of years, coordinating the First Thursday program and most of the city-sponsored signature events, including the Independence Day Celebration, Big Night Out Street Dance and Light Up the Night. He also works with downtown merchants and other small businesses throughout Canby.
With all of those events canceled this year, at least for the summer, and with City Hall closed to most employees since March, LeSueur has been doing virtually all of his work via email, phone and Zoom.
LeSueur is not sure how he got the virus, but he thinks it very unlikely that it happened in Canby, since he has been working almost exclusively from home.
“I am a pretty healthy guy — I eat well, practice yoga and keep very active,” he said. “I did not expect to get as sick as I did. Really, I didn’t expect to get infected in the first place because I have been working from home, getting most groceries delivered, and social distancing and mask-wearing since March.”
His symptoms began on Tuesday, May 26, with a headache, he said. He felt a chill the next day and found that he had a slight fever. His symptoms escalated quickly from there, with a spike in temperature and what he described as “severe body aches” for two days.
His primary care provider recommended that he get tested for the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness Covid-19. LeSueur was swabbed at a drive-through testing center at a Legacy Health urgent care facility nearby and got a call back within 10 minutes that he, indeed, had the virus.
The illness was severe, but it came in waves, LeSueur said, with the most severe symptoms lasting about a week. His symptoms included headache, body aches, fever and chills, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, lingering back pain and exhaustion.
He was unable to eat much during the worst of it, with the exception of fresh fruit — especially watermelon. He was light-sensitive, which made it difficult and frustrating to use his cellphone to check in with concerned family members and friends, as well as his doctors.
The “scariest moment,” he said, came a few days in, when he had such difficulty breathing that he needed help from his partner to calm down and take deep breaths.
“It was a very emotional experience, and I did have moments where my ‘life flashed before my eyes,’ and I considered the possibility that I could die,” he said. “It felt as if my lungs were made out of rubber bands, and someone had reached into my chest, grabbed all that they could and clenched the lung tissue tightly in their fist.”
Some comic relief actually came from his partner having slightly different symptoms: his sense of smell and taste was altered and chemical-y; she had no sense of smell at all. He recalls asking, “Does this salad dressing smell like acetone to you?” and her snapping back, “I can’t smell anything!”
Within a couple of weeks, LeSueur had made a full recovery. He said the city — his employer — was “incredibly supportive,” and he was impressed with their transparency.
He emailed his supervisor and Interim City Administrator Amanda Zeiber about his positive test result, and the news was communicated to other city government employees within 30 minutes.
LeSueur said his identity and confidentiality was protected, but the city did notify anyone with whom he had come into close contact about their potential exposure. He had come into the office only once in the previous two weeks.
He also appreciated the support of family and friends — from afar.
“I got a lot of messages like, ‘I’m sorry you’re not feeling well,'” he said. “Those were great.”
For those who are concerned they may have contracted Covid-19, his advice was simple: Get tested. He has now done so three times — most recently on June 18 to confirm he was no longer positive.
“We have never had to wait in line for a test,” he said. “They are readily available, and we never had to pay anything out-of-pocket.”
Photo by Gordon Christiansen, Canby CTV Channel 5.