One Manhattan Beach man’s journey into novel coronavirus
by Mark McDermott
Greg Geilman had not been feeling right for a while. He’d had an on-again, off-again sore throat for about six weeks. He self-treated, taking Wellness Formula vitamins and lozenges. The symptoms would go away in a day or two. Then he woke up on Wednesday, March 18, and knew he was really sick.
“It hit me pretty hard. It wasn’t one or two symptoms. It was the complex of symptoms,” Geilman said.
He’d had night sweats and was intensely feverish and sore all over.
Geilman, who lives alone in North Manhattan Beach, had already suspected this could possibly be novel coronavirus. He’d been practicing strict social distancing since March 12. He spent a miserable day on the 18th, endured another night of fever and sweats, and the next day decided to get tested. He videoconferenced with his doctor, who said that his symptoms didn’t qualify him for a NOVEL-19 test. He called a few ERs and urgent care facilities, who all told him the same thing — he wasn’t having trouble breathing, so he didn’t qualify for a test under CDC guidelines. He didn’t give up, but instead decided to take another route, using the power of deduction. He was able to get tested for both influenza A and influenza B, and tested negative for both, on the spot.
Now Geilman was beginning to really believe he had COVID-19. The next day, on Thursday, he posted on his social media that he had symptoms and wanted to get tested, but was having no luck. A friend hit him back with a suggestion.
“You should call Make You Well urgent care in Torrance,” she wrote.
What the hell, Geilman thought, and made one more call. He was surprised when he received a call back and underwent thorough phone screening. He was even more surprised when he was told to come in: they would test him. One of the telling aspects of his symptoms, the doctor would later tell him, is that he didn’t have a lot of mucus, sinus congestion or pressure, yet he had a lot of other symptoms of a common cold.
“I believe that is a telltale sign of coronavirus,” Geilman said.
Geilman was told to call as soon as he arrived at the Make Me Well parking lot. “The place was really super clean, super professional,” he said. “They came out to the parking lot with a mask, then made sure no one was in the lobby and walked me straight to a private room, where the only people who saw me from that point was a nurse and a doctor…I didn’t make contact with anyone, and the people who saw me wore masks, as well, and swabbed me for coronavirus.”
He was told the results would take two to four days. In the meantime, his fever reached just below 101 degrees. Two days later, on Saturday, Geilman was informed that he tested positive for novel coronavirus. Geilman is one of those people whose stomach is almost imperturbable, yet he vomited.
“Normally, nothing makes me throw up. I think it was emotional,” he said. “I don’t think it was the virus.”
But he also started to feel a little bit better. On Sunday, he woke up feeling a lot better. The fever had subsided, and he had a lot more energy. Early that afternoon, he decided to let all his friends know what was going on. Many of those close to him already knew, and his phone was blowing up with questions. So he wrote a long note, made a video, and posted both on Facebook and Instagram. Wearing a baseball hat and a blue Black Keys concert t-shirt emblazoned with “Lonely Boy: Howling for You,” Geilman calmly described what he was experiencing.
“I did get my test results back last night, and unfortunately I did test positive for coronavirus,” he said in the video. “I don’t see this as an immediately, hugely negative thing. I’m glad I know…I’m staying quarantined.”
Geilman is 50 years old and has no underlying health conditions. He has no idea where he might have picked up the virus. He is an agent and team leader for the Domo Group at RE/MAX (“the official South Bay real estate agents of the Los Angeles Kings”). He’s also a gym rat who works out five times a week and a generally social guy.
“I could have gotten it from the gym, meetings, coworkers, Whole Foods cashier, a Trader Joe’s cart, etc.,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’m not sure where I contracted the virus, but no one that I know that I’ve had contact with has symptoms.”
Geilman was overwhelmed with the response to his Facebook post, which received 504 likes, 324 comments, and was shared 176 times through Wednesday. He was even more overwhelmed by the genuine love shown by his close friends and co-workers, who dropped off such a steady supply of care packages that he has barely had to tap into the groceries he had begun storing up at the same time everyone else did.
“The community, my friends, the real estate agent community — they have just been so amazing,” Geilman said. “I get stuff dropped off on my doorstep and then I get a text message. Today I went out and looked and there was avocado toast and hot soup from The Source.”
Geilman said he went public on Facebook in hopes of helping calm fears.
“I believe panic and fear are not good for the immune system, and we all need strong immune systems right now,” he wrote at the close of his post. “I wanted to post this video to get good information out there. I’m available to talk to anyone and answer any questions. I need a BIG HUG but no one can come to my apartment, so I’ll settle for hugging myself for now. Love you all!”
(One of his friends quickly replied, “Your next vid should be of your hugging yourself.” “Hahaha,” Geilman responded. “Careful what you wish for.”)
His quarantine hasn’t been hard, Geilman said. He’s continued working from home, meeting with his team regularly through Zoom; in fact, business has been surprisingly steady. With the help of the folks at Make You Well urgent care, he received an IV drip of vitamin C to boost his immunity, and by and large has been feeling stronger day by day.
“I was telling a friend, I’m obviously not a Navy Seal, and in regular day-to-day life, the little stuff sometimes gets under my skin. Like if someone cuts me off on the freeway, I’ll flip out,” he said during an interview Monday afternoon. “But if something really big and important happens, I don’t know where I get this inner resource, but I feel like a Navy Seal in that I’m able to quickly evaluate information that is useful, and I’m able to quickly assess what this sort of emergency situation needs. I don’t want to underestimate this sickness, for sure, and in fact since [Sunday] after the video, I really kind of slowed down and rested. My body yesterday was very externally focused, because I was being bombarded with all this love, so today I just laid on the couch for a couple hours and watched a movie.”
Geilman has taken some positives from the experience. First, the sense of community he’s felt even in isolation has been particularly meaningful. But his solitude has been an equally important part of the experience.
“You know, the quarantine hasn’t been difficult for me,” he said. “I’ve been taking the time to look inwards and meditate and that’s been really valuable for me…We are all so constantly externally focused, myself included. In normal life, I’ll take a walk on the Strand and instead of getting quiet and looking inward I think I am easily distracted.”
“Being locked in these four walls has given me the opportunity to, number one, get face to face with my social media addictions,” Geilman added, with a laugh. “I mean, this video, it’s been so nice…I had a lot of people reaching out to me asking me questions and at least three people who had symptoms got tested with this urgent care and are waiting for the results.”
Although Geilman is cautiously optimistic — “I’m not out of the woods yet,” — he is somewhat surprised at how quickly his health is returning. He’s had flu twice in recent years that knocked him out for much longer. His hope once he regains full health and emerges from quarantine, is to use what he presumes will be his immunity to COVID-19 to help others.
“I really hope when I’m done with this I’ll have the antibodies so I don’t have to worry [about being infected again] and will be able to be helpful and useful to other people,” he said. “And if my mom or dad get sick, I want to be able to take care of them, or if someone in the community needs help, I’ll be able to go where other people are afraid to go.”
To see Greg Geilman’s video, go to facebook.com/ggeilman, or search his name on YouTube.com.