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He survived a shooting at Trader Joe's. Would coronavirus be his downfall?

Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

It only took a bit of a chill and a slightly elevated temperature to send Kevin Lew to the bedroom with explicit instructions for his wife.

"From here on out," he told her, "don't come in unless you absolutely have to. When you come in, wear a mask, wear gloves. Try not to touch anything. When you leave, try not to touch anything else."

It would be days before Kevin received test results confirming that he was infected with the novel coronavirus. But as a Los Angeles oral surgeon, he was well-versed in the ways of contagion.

Within hours of feeling achy on an evening family walk March 21, he shut himself in the master bedroom of his Los Feliz home. There he would remain -- except to drive himself to his doctor's office March 23 -- for the next 12 days.

His wife, Astrid, kept a pair of red Crocs by the bedroom door, which she would wear on her quick trips inside. She would leave disposable containers of broth or yogurt -- what little food Kevin could stomach -- on a table and leave, take off the Crocs and then carefully wipe them with sanitizer.

She could not lay a soothing hand on his fevered body. Their two young children could not stay by his side. Even the devoted family dog, Heidi, was banished from the sickroom.

 

"Everyone talks about the isolation and not being around people," said Kevin, 50. "But boy, not touching people and not being able to hug people you normally do has really been eye-opening."

He suffered from headaches, a 101-degree fever, exhaustion and body aches. There were times when he was curled up in a ball, the sickest he has ever been. But the infection never progressed to the point where he had trouble breathing or required hospitalization.

"For the most part I think I was fairly levelheaded about it," said Kevin, a dentist's son who grew up in Los Feliz. He suspects he contracted the coronavirus from a patient before the pandemic shut down much of Los Angeles.

He was more frightened of death in 2018, when he and others hid in a cold storage room of the Silver Lake Trader Joe's during a shootout between police and a gunman that left a store manager dead.

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