‘It’s just so unknown’: Andrew Smith says he’s taking healing one step at a time

JMC faculty member Andrew Smith speaks in a campus classroom. Smith is currently in the hospital after a COVID-19 diagnosis. (Archive photo by Melanie Smith | Collegian Media Group)

Just a week ago Andrew Smith, professor of practice in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications and Collegian Media Group board of directors chair, was returning from London following a spring break study abroad program.

Now, he remains in 24-hour care at Via Christi in Manhattan, where he is receiving treatment for COVID-19 and bilateral pneumonia.

“It was actually fairly quick,” Smith said in a phone call Monday. “It’s been a strange few days.”

While traveling back from the United Kingdom, Smith said he was feeling fatigued, but he brushed it aside. Traveling wipes it out of you, he said, so he assumed that’s all it was.

“You know jet lag, I’ll just sleep it off,” Smith said.

When Smith was unloading bags from the car, however, he said he noticed his coughing was becoming painful. The next morning, he had a fever of 102 degrees.

His daughters and wife, who had also been traveling with him in London, said they weren’t feeling well either. They quickly called their primary care physician, who referred them to the emergency room.

Via Christi was alerted that they were on their way and prepared for their arrival.

Everyone in the Smith family was given the nasal swab needed for COVID-19 testing. While Smith’s wife Jennifer and their daughters were sent home, Smith stayed behind. He was given chest X-rays, a breathing treatment and a regiment of medication. Although all four family members were swabbed, only Smith’s test was sent on for testing.

Smith says he’s operating under the assumption that the other members of his family also have the novel coronavirus, but they don’t have confirmation. His sister and her husband, who happened to be in London at the same time, also have tested positive for COVID-19 in California.

“Now my family did not present with fevers and did not present with some of the other more serious coughs,” Smith said. “There’s no question they have a form of the virus. … My wife and my children have no respiratory problems, thank goodness, but they have massive fatigue.”

On Friday, when it was announced that there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Riley County, Smith said he had been home for three days. But his condition worsened. That same day, he returned to Via Christi and was taken to intensive care, where he remains for the time being.

“The little by little incremental feeling of getting a little bit better in my lungs has been encouraging,” Smith said.

It’s a long road to recovery, Smith said.

“Part of it is that it’s just so unknown,” Smith said. “Nobody has a process for it. It’s all hearsay.”

On Saturday, Smith indicated in a text message that he hoped to be home early this week. While that is unlikely to happen, Smith said he’s taking healing one step at a time.

“At this point, we’re just trying to get to the part where I don’t have to have a medical professional with me at all times,” Smith said. “I think we’re getting closer to that, but we’re just not there yet. We’re not talking about getting better in days. Talking about weeks and months. And so it’s gonna be hard to see on a day-to-day type of improvement.”

Smith said he’s grateful — both for the health care professionals and the people who have publicly and privately showed their support for him.

“It has been absolutely overwhelming,” Smith said. “I find myself in tears multiple times every day.”

For now, he has a message for people who aren’t taking the virus seriously.

“It sucks to live in fear … don’t live in fear and be afraid of life, but be smart and think of those in your community,” Smith said. “Community-minded action is so important in times like this. It’s all of our rights and privileges to take care of each other.”

Kaylie Mclaughlin
My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the Editor in Chief of the Collegian. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a junior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage. I am fueled by a lot of coffee and I spend my (sparse) free time watching stand-up comedy.