Conrad Buchanan woke up the morning of March 14th — the very day that he, his wife Nicole, and daughter Skye, 12, were supposed to be leaving for their spring vacation — with a low grade fever and body aches. He worked as a DJ, and was around big parties and crowds. When he woke up that morning, his back hurt so much that he told Nicole he thought they might need a new mattress.
As the day wore on, he proceeded to feel worse, developing body aches and nausea. He was swabbed for the flu, but the test came back negative. His primary care doctor gave him a script to test for Covid-19, but because he had no prior health issues, hadn’t travelled out of the country recently, and was only 39 years old, nobody would test him.
His symptoms continued to get worse. By Wednesday the 19th, he had developed a horrible cough and diarrhea. Four days after showing symptoms, Conrad was finally able to get a drive through test for Covid-19, where he was swabbed and told to self-quarantine. On March 21st, Conrad received his results: he had tested positive for Covid 19. The Health Department instructed him to stay at home, and to go to the hospital if he was having trouble breathing.
By that evening, he was so sore from coughing and body aches that he couldn’t physically get himself to the bathroom. Nicole told us that she knew it was time to take him to the hospital: “By Sunday, I could tell his breathing was just getting tougher for him. I kept telling him we should go in, and he was telling me he was so scared to go in. But his pulse was low — 84 — and I knew I had to take him in.
“We get to the hospital — Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Florida — and at that point he’s still talking to me. He says to the ER team: ‘My wife has to come with me.’ He’s scared out of his mind, and the hospital staff says, ‘She just needs to park the car, and then we’ll bring her to you.’ When I parked the car and came back to the entrance, the hospital staff wouldn’t let me in. I can’t get into the ER, no one is talking to me, and the hospital is on complete lockdown.
“An hour goes by, and I finally speak to a doctor who says, ‘I intubated your husband and put him on a ventilator, and he’s waiting to be moved up to the ICU.’ I said, ‘What? Why did you put him on a ventilator?’ Nobody called me; nobody let me know what was going on or told me what the recommendations were. I know my husband would have never made that decision on his own.The doctor told me that this was the protocol during the pandemic.”
That night, Conrad had a pulmonary embolism, which affected his lungs and the right side of the heart. Nicole says that although she was able to “sneak in” to the hospital, she wasn’t allowed to touch or be in the same room as her husband. She had a nurse put a phone up to his ear so that she could talk to him.
Nicole told us, “By that time, he was medically sedated and paralyzed. The nurse there was amazing, and she could see and hear my pain. I asked her to call me when things took a turn. On Thursday she called me, told me his oxygen level had gone down to 40, and they were pushing epi every 10 minutes to keep his heart going. He had brain damage. I knew that that’s not a life he wanted to live. He always sang “Three Little Birds” to our daughter, so when the nurse put us on the phone with him, we were able to sing that to him as he left us.” Conrad died that day at 5:45 p.m.
Now, Nicole is fighting to get an autopsy: “I want answers. A medical examiner hasn’t even looked at my husband’s body. They are trying to rule it as a natural cause. But they need to look at his body to get answers. These doctors don’t know what they’re doing. They’re not ready, and they’re not prepared. Everyone is scared. They wouldn’t even test me, and I’ve been in the house with him for 16 days. I finally got my own test and I’m positive, but my only symptoms are that I have no taste or smell. Why did he die but I’m okay?”
Nicole called the CDC to file a complaint, and was told they are only performing autopsies on 5% of Covid-19 victims. “We, as the U.S., need to prepare these hospitals and these doctors — we need to know what happened to him.” Nicole said. “I would never want somebody in a million years to go through this. I feel like I’m in a horror movie.”
She told us, “He was so loved in this community. He was such an uplifting, goofy spirited guy. He just loved bringing every walk of life together through music.”
Our hearts are with Nicole and the rest of Conrad’s loved ones at this time.
This appeared in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.