Kevin Hayes of Valrico started having COVID-19 symptoms on June 15.

Most COVID-19 survivors living in Florida first assume the congestion or runny nose they are experiencing is due to allergies. That’s what Kevin Hayes of Valrico thought when he started having symptoms on June 15 of this year.

“I figured it was my allergies until, on June 18, I developed a fever,” Hayes said. “The next day, my fever shot up to 102 and I ended up at Baycare Urgent Care on Bloomingdale Ave., where I was diagnosed with bacterial infection in my respiratory system. I was given antibiotics and told to go home and rest. I asked for a COVID test but they wouldn’t give me one. The doctor who saw me said, ‘I was too healthy to have COVID.’”

The next day, Hayes’ temperature spiked and he was starting to have other COVID-19-like symptoms. Since Hayes is a retired Navy SCPO/EB with 21 years of service, he decided to go to MacDill to see if he could get a COVID-19 test done at the hospital on base. Sadly, Hayes was turned away and not given a test.

“They refused to give me a test,” Hayes said.

On June 24, Hayes was still not feeling any better, so he went to the Tampa General Emergency Room in Brandon. “They were absolutely wonderful and gave me a COVID test,” Hayes said. “Forty-five minutes later, my results were in and they confirmed that I had COVID and pneumonia.”

Hayes’ girlfriend had purchased a pulse oximetry to check Hayes’ oxygen levels while he was home resting. When she checked his oxygen level on June 27, his level was at 87. “She insisted I go to the hospital and I agreed to go,” Hayes said. “I was admitted within 15 minutes and about three hours later I was in ICU.”

Hayes received excellent care while he was at the main campus of Tampa General Hospital.

“The doctors and staff were very attentive to my care, and me,” Hayes said. “While I was there, I was given hot oxygen treatments to help break up the sticky stuff in my lungs. I was three steps away from being put on a ventilator if I didn’t have this treatment.”

Hayes strongly feels that if it weren’t for his girlfriend buying the pulse oximetry and checking his oxygen levels, he wouldn’t be here today.

“If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you need to buy this $25 gadget because it’s what saved my life,” Hayes said. “Without seeing how low my oxygen level was, I might have not gone to the hospital.”

Hayes came home from the hospital on July 7 and even though he is on oxygen in him home, he is improving daily.