Doctor who caught COVID: We’re tired of the virus. Wear a mask anyway


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you are tired of wearing a mask or thinking about going ahead and gathering in big groups for Thanksgiving, a local doctor-turned-COVID-19 patient has a message for you: This is no time to get lazy about stopping coronavirus.

Over the past eight months, many have turned to Facebook to post about frustrations or doubts about the virus. When Dr. Dave Burkard was in the hospital fighting COVID-19, he did the same to share his firsthand experience.

As of Tuesday afternoon, his message had been shared more than 5,700 times.

“If my words can have the same impact that I can’t have right now because I’m not in the ER treating patients, then I might as well try it,” Burkard, an emergency medicine resident at Spectrum Health, told News 8 in a Tuesday Zoom interview.

Two weeks ago, he went from caring for people to needing to be cared for.

“Someone dropped off a package at my door and I walked over and picked it up. It’s about 10 steps to my front door and I was like bent over, gasping for air,” Burkard recalled.

He tested positive for COVID-19.

Burkard is not a high-risk patient. He’s 28 and is a regular runner, so he’s in good shape. The virus hit him hard anyway. He could no longer able to stand for more than a few seconds and had a high heart rate and low oxygen, so he headed to the ER.

“Pretty weird to be an ER doc and to walk in to be seen,” he said.

While receiving care from his friends, he found himself with some free time and a chance to make a change by sharing a post on Facebook about his diagnosis.

“Today, from my hospital room, I’m asking you to reconsider before you post about COVID being a hoax,” he wrote. “Before you’re tempted to talk about the mortality rate or you’re tempted to complain about having to wear a mask to the store, think about those of us who literally put our lives and our health on the line every day by showing up to work.”

“I work 24-hour shifts in the hospital where I wear a mask for 24 hours straight,” Burkhard told News 8. “They are annoying, but if wearing that mask can save one life, it’s worth it.”

Burkhard said seeing the patients battle COVID-19 inside the hospital motivates him to help stop the spread. He hopes sharing his story will motive others.

“People are fatigued, people are tired. And for me, I have to go back to the moments in the hospital where I’ve seen patients that are suffering. I’ve seen people say goodbye to their loved ones,” he said. “And then I remember that me wearing a mask or me canceling dinner with a friend is not the end of the world. The end of the world is seeing someone you love pass away.”

Burkard remains at home recovering. He’s still having trouble breathing but no longer needs hospital care.

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