Maryland teacher marks 6 months since coronavirus nearly killed him

Jason Flanagan, an English teacher at High Point High School in Beltsville, is back at work and teaching virtual classes, but earlier this year the Maryland man was in bad shape during a battle with the coronavirus that nearly killed him.

Thursday marks six months since the 39-year-old from Frederick went to the hospital and had to be placed in a medically-induced coma so he could be intubated and put on a ventilator.

“In the span of about 10 or 11 days I went from feeling kind of bad to respiratory distress,” Flanagan said in an interview with WTOP.

Flanagan recalled that his illness started around March 14 when he felt sick with a headache. Over the next few days he developed a fever and felt progressively worse, but he didn’t suspect that he had the virus.

“I had all the symptoms except for the shortness of breath so I figured maybe I had the flu or a really bad cold,” said Flanagan.

That changed suddenly on March 24, when he was outside and had to walk up a ramp toward a building. He struggled to pull air into his lungs.

“I was out of breath and had to sit down,” said Flanagan.

“I used to play hockey so it felt like I was playing for four hours straight, and it only took me two minutes to walk up that ramp. It was just really hard to get air in. At that moment I had a little bit of fear.”

Flanagan went to an urgent care facility and from there was immediately taken to the emergency room at Frederick Health Hospital, where doctors gave him a chest X-ray and determined that he had pneumonia in both lungs.

They told him he needed to be hooked up to a ventilator and placed in a coma.

He would stay in the coma for a period of 11 days, during which his COVID-19 test came back positive.

When doctors eventually took Flanagan out of the coma, he couldn’t believe how much time had passed.

“I looked over at the board on the left side of the room and they had the day’s date and I said, ‘Wait a minute, how is it April 3?’

“It was a lot to process and I did break down a little bit. I lost 11 days of my life that I don’t have any real memory of. It’s weird to have this void of time that you’ll never remember.”

Flanagan said he doesn’t know where he contracted the coronavirus, but he does have an idea of why he became so sick.

While undergoing tests at the hospital, Flanagan was surprised to learn that he had diabetes, a factor that can lead to serious complications in patients with COVID-19.

Flanagan urged everyone to take precautions until more information is known about the coronavirus and vaccines are widely available.

“We’re still going to have problems and we’re still going to have more stories like mine if people are not going to heed the warnings that the medical experts have,” Flanagan said.

“I hear about people with extensive lingering aftereffects. I consider myself pretty fortunate that the effects were not long-lasting.”

letter to ill teacher
One of the many letters of support Maryland teacher Jason Flanagan received from family, friends and students while he was sick with the coronavirus. (Courtesy Jason Flanagan)

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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