SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the University of California San Francisco’s Department of Medicine, is no longer a “NoVid.”
Four years into the pandemic, Wachter caught the COVID-19 virus for the first time.
“Until this week, I remained a NoVid, which I chalked up to being fairly cautious, fully vaxxed and a bit lucky. This week my luck ran out. My case is a cautionary tale, particularly for the ‘just a cold’ folks. Mine definitely was not … I literally have scars to show for it,” Wachter wrote.
As one of the Bay Area’s most respected medical experts, Wachter took a cautious approach during the pandemic by wearing masks, social distancing, and getting vaccinated. Wachter was frequently featured on KRON4’s newscasts for COVID-related interviews throughout the pandemic, and post-pandemic.
On Sunday, Wachter worked a clinical duty shift at UCSF’s hospital and wore a KN95 mask. After work, he noticed he had a dry cough. By Sunday night, he felt “flu-ish,” with a sore throat, fever, and chills.
“Things got bad overnight. Monday, I woke up drenched in sweat, with a bad sore throat and a hacking cough,” Wachter wrote.
Still, his at-home COVID test showed a negative result. He called out sick from work, took two Tylenols, and got in the shower.
“Then I made a mistake – I took a shower. While the instinct to take a shower when you’re sweaty and gross is understandable, stepping into hot water when you’re dehydrated and flu-ish can cause your blood vessels to dilate, leading to a dangerous drop in blood pressure,” Wachter wrote.
He collapsed, hit his head on a trash can in the bathroom, and later woke up in a pool of his own blood on the bathroom floor.
Wachter’s wife was out of town, “but luckily my future son-in-law Joe, who doubles as an intern in our residency program, was around and drove me to the UCSF Emergency Room,” Wachter wrote.
He spent several hours in the emergency room, tested positive for COVID, and underwent CT scans to assess his head injury. The doctor spent the night in the hospital while neurosurgeons repaired a gash in his head with stiches.
“Luckily, at my age a few scars don’t bother me much, and I believe my wife likes me for reasons other than my previously seamless brow,” Wachter joked.
“After 24 hours in the ED, they set me free. Overall I feel pretty darn lucky. With that kind of syncope and fall, I could easily have taken out an eye, been paralyzed from my spine injury, or died of a subdural bleed,” Wachter wrote.
He is currently at home, taking Paxlovid to lower his chances of developing long COVID, and isolating to prevent spreading the virus to someone else. Wachter said he will not de-isolate until he takes a negative rapid test.
Wachter said he was feeling 90 percent better by Wednesday night.
“So, I’ve joined the 3/4 of Americans who aren’t NoVids,” he wrote.
Wachter received a booster shot in April. Even post-pandemic, he still wears masks on planes and in crowded rooms. He didn’t care for any COVID-positive patients in the hospital leading up to his infection.
So where did Wachter catch COVID? “I have no idea,” he wrote. “I haven’t found any source, so it’s likely to remain a mystery.”