Hospital Stories

Video provided by Stony Brook University

SURVIVAL — Stony Brook University Hospital in the Throes of the Pandemic

By Brianne Ledda

In February of 2020, Gary DeGrijze visited an allergist for a mysterious rash that covered his body. He thought it might be an allergic reaction. He tracked what he was eating and took Prednisone and Benadryl in an attempt to relieve the symptoms. Then he started to cough.

The 49-year-old New York National Guard veteran, army reservist and postal service worker from Bellport called out of work in mid-March and got tested for COVID-19, a new disease — new, at the time, anyway — caused by the coronavirus that had only just reached the United States. 

His wife, 50-year-old postal worker Ana DeGrijze, said the rash was gone by then but he had developed a cough and fever, so she took him to a nearby urgent care. 

“The lady at the urgent care stopped me from getting out of the car,” Gary recalls. “She said, ‘Stay there. What’s your phone number? We’re gonna call you, they’re gonna have somebody call you.’” 

Within minutes, they were on the phone with someone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gary’s symptoms checked all the boxes for COVID-19, but when asked if he had come into contact with someone who had the virus, he couldn’t answer.

He thinks he may have gotten it from a coworker, who came to work sick the month Gary got the rash. There’s no way to truly know. Before vaccines were widely distributed, the United States and other countries struggled to contain the highly contagious COVID-19.

By the end of February, there were 68 confirmed cases — and one death  — in the country. But that was only the beginning. Nobody could have guessed how those numbers would escalate.

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