A COVID-19 story: Pickleball saved their lives, Tahoe couple says
Special to the Tribune
When an 85-year-old couple from Incline Village acquired the coronavirus, they say it was pickleball, of all things, that saved their lives.
It was about March 20 and Jim Fisher said he sort of felt crummy, “I had no energy.”
He and his wife, Diane, were working their “winter business” in Crested Butte, Colorado, Jim tells people.
“I have a business there in the winter and they say, ‘Oh yeah, what is it?’” he said. “And I say, I have a transportation company. ‘Oh, that’s wonderful,’ they say. Then I tell them, I have two clients over there, one’s 12 and the other’s 14.”
“I think what saved me more than anything was my health, he added. “Pickleball plays into my health … People get addicted to drugs they get addicted to all sorts of things. We’re addicted to pickleball.”
Within a few days of feeling crummy, while playing the role of chauffeur for their grandchildren, Jim had terrific chills, a headache and felt awful continuously.
“Nothing in my records from the hospital indicates I had an elevated temperature,” he said. “On March 24, I went to Gunnison Hospital.”
Jim was admitted immediately and remained there for four days, until a disappointing ambulance ride.
That was when he was moved to a lower elevation to help improve his oxygen levels.
“The thing that bothered me most was they put me in an ambulance, and I had never been in an ambulance,” he said. “I said to the driver, ‘I want you to turn on the lights and sirens,’ and they wouldn’t do it.”
Laughs aside, the situation seemed more serious and scary for Diane.
“We went to the emergency room and they checked him, they came out and said they were keeping him,” she said. “I could never go and see him. For a lot of people, they never see that person again and they die. I had no idea if I’d ever see him again.”
Diane was sick, too, saying “I had a horrible cough no energy no appetite,” and one other symptom she didn’t want to discuss. Diane, though, was not admitted to a hospital, as her oxygen was good and her chest x-ray was clear.
Jim and Diane said they both only felt “really crummy” for a few days to a week. The home where they stay in Crested Butte was over 9,000 feet in elevation, so it was imperative they move to a lower altitude to recover in quarantine. After the symptoms cleared neither one of them had the energy to drive home to Incline Village, so their daughter drove them home and stayed with them.
Jim never felt as if he was fighting for his life.
“No big deal,” he said, before sharing his thoughts on the virus and the couple’s outcome. “A lot of people that have died have other problems that compromised them. There are a lot of people today that sit around on their telephones and play games at their computers and they don’t know they have a problem with their lungs, because they never use them.
“When I got home I started walking the hills,” he added. “In the beginning, I couldn’t get up the hills without stopping. After doing it for about five days I was back to doing it without a problem.
“I think what saved me more than anything was my health. Pickleball plays into my health; it got me out every day for three hours a day running around. People get addicted to drugs they get addicted to all sorts of things. We’re addicted to pickleball. Here I’m playing with an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl and they’re really good.”
Diane added, “We have so many more new friends, all young.”
When Jim was recovering he started taking hydroxychloroquine, the drug President Trump announced he had taken. Diane says, “Supposedly it’s what really saved him.”
But the FDA said it’s “no longer reasonable” to believe the drug the president called a “game-changer” is effective in treating COVID-19 or that its benefits outweigh its potential risks, The Washington Post reported last week. The agency said it’s reversing the emergency use it had granted back in March.
“Clinical trials have failed to show hydroxychloroquine is effective in preventing or treating COVID-19,” the Post’s reported. “A United Kingdom trial was halted in early June because of the lack of evidence that it helped hospitalized patients.”
Surviving COVID-19 was a blip on the radar for both Jim and Diane Fisher, they say.
They, and apparently at least one doctor, believe that’s due to their active lifestyle, which the doctor was glad to hear the Fishers have continued into their mid 80s.
“I ski,” Jim told the doctor, “I play pickleball six days a week about three hours a day …”
And the doctor replied, “Well, that saved your lives.”
Michelle Gartner is a freelance writer who lives in Kings Beach.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.