USF educator cares for husband with COVID-19

Her husband was hospitalized for 8 days.
Posted at 10:49 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 11:00:18-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- A USF educator has been caring for her husband with COVID-19 for the past month.

Dr. Susan Perry is a vice dean at the USF Health College of Nursing and a retried U.S. Air Force colonel.

Dr. Perry said her husband, Tony, became sick after they returned home from a trip to the Northeast last month.

"He had headaches, body aches, a cough and his temperature was 100 degrees so we took him to the emergency department because I felt suspicious he had COVID-19," said Dr. Perry.

The couple had several doctor appointments before Tony was admitted to UF Health Leesburg Hospital.

"His temperature was 104.4 degrees. He was having difficulty breathing so we took him to the hospital, admitted him and they put him in isolation," said Dr. Perry.

Tony received azithromycin and chloroquine. He stayed in isolation for eight days and was unable to see his wife.

"When we took him to the hospital, they again told me I couldn't stay with him so he promised me he would fight," said Dr. Perry.

Dr. Perry said she was unable to sleep while her husband was in the hospital.

She is grateful for her kind neighbors, colleagues at USF and the nurses at UF Health Leesburg Hospital.

"About the second night, he was in the hospital around 2:30 a.m., I couldn't sleep so I called the nurse's station and I think the nurse could tell how upset I was. She took 20 minutes of her time just to talk to me and find out how I was and answer my questions. It was something that got me through," said Dr. Perry.

Dr. Perry served in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years.

In 1992, Dr. Perry served for three years as an infection control officer in the U.S. Air Force.

She entered the Air Force when HIV/AIDS was a major concern.

"The Air Force began training me as an infection control officer so it was during the time of HIV/AIDS epidemic so it was extremely important to have someone who understood personal protective equipment and infection control," said Dr. Perry.

"It was really during that time, I became very well-versed in what we needed to do to protect ourselves and our patients from communicable diseases and that training really helped me a lot when Tony became ill," she added.

The couple did not eat meals together and stayed in separate areas of the house.

"I moved to another part of the house. He had his own bedroom, his own bathroom. I gave him meals on disposable dishes and disposable silverware and only went into his room with a mask on," she said.

Tony has a follow up doctor's appointment later this week. He was healthy before the virus struck.

"My husband is over 65 years old, but he was in perfect health until this. He exercises. He's in shape. He was a soccer player," said Dr. Perry.

The couple encourages social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am a nurse, but in this case I was a wife worried about her husband dying."

"Please, please stay at home not only for yourselves and your family, but also for the nurses and physicians that need to stay well," she added.