Most sports people in Las Vegas think it would be great if the games as we once knew them started up again sooner rather than later.
One isn’t as enthusiastic about the possibility.
As a participating team physician for the Aviators and Golden Knights, Dr. Michael Gunter has a vested interest in his clients playing ball and dropping the puck. He’d love to see it happen.
But as one who has been ravaged by COVID-19, he doesn’t think it would be prudent. “Now is not the time to do that,” he said.
The concierge physician has no idea how he got the virus, which of Saturday morning had infected 3,570 in Clark County and killed 174. He can speak firsthand about its virulence. He said it’s nothing like he has ever experienced.
Last year, Gunter said he contracted Influenza A and had symptoms for two days. He’s going on five weeks with coronavirus and its lingering effects.
“This kicked my butt,” he said. “I will tell you that in all my years, I have never taken more than two days off for illness.” To go hunting, however, “is another story,” he said, flashing a sense of humor that has remained intact.
His respiratory system is another matter.
The sports doctor recovered without checking into a hospital, but said it was touch and go.
“I was out of my office for three weeks,” Gunter said. “The first two weeks were horrendous. I had severe body aches; my skin was so sensitive. I had cough, fever, headache.”
Five weeks in he still has a severe cough. He still gets fatigued.
He said he started having body aches on a Saturday in mid-March. “The next day, I was like ‘Oh my lord.’”
Two weeks later, he still had a 102-degree temperature. Gunter said he would take two Tylenol three or four times a day to reduce his fever, which consistently ran from 99.8 to 102.
“I’d go from the bed to the couch to the recliner and go back to sleep,” he said. “My doctor wanted to put me on the hydroxychloroquine (a malaria drug touted as a possible cure). He told me to go to the hospital.”
Gunter said his wife also tested positive for the virus but has no symptoms. His father-in-law, who has underlying health issues, was hospitalized with COVID-19. Gunter said his father-in-law received hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, and his condition improved.
“He was only in the hospital a week. So we feel that it helped him. But there’s a study out that showed it really didn’t help (other patients),” Gunter said.
“The medicine now, we’re just not sure.”
Timing not right
Gunter recently tested negative for the virus and positive for its antibody via blood test. In recent days he has noticed his energy improving.
The 59-year-old physician, part of Bonanza High’s first graduating class in 1982 — “Gerald Riggs was in my class,” he said of the former All-Pro running back — kept using the same word to describe COVID-19.
“It’s horrendous,” he said, stifling another cough.
“What you see in this spectrum is anything from no symptoms to death. You’re seeing healthy, younger people dying from this. That’s the thing about this disease. We have (plenty) to learn from it. You might see a vaccine by the end of the year, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. You’re probably looking at 2021 or later.”
For now, or maybe even until then, he said playing sports in front of crowds seems risky. Same for playing games in empty arenas or in front of limited audiences, at least until more is learned about COVID-19.
“The only way you’d be able to do that is say OK, we’re going to sell this many tickets, we’re going to keep ‘em five seats apart,” he said of spectators.
He was reminded of the instinct baseball fans have for congregating around a foul ball.
“That’s just not going to work,” Gunter said, adding that if patience is a virtue, it also can be part of a cure when deciding when to play ball again.
“It’ll come back, and we’ll appreciate it,” he said of sports resuming. ”We’re going to appreciate getting back to hockey, getting back to baseball, looking forward to football coming. But I think right now, we have to really respect this virus, because the last thing we want is to go the wrong way and then we’re really stuck.”