TCOM alum contracts COVID-19 while doing volunteer work

April 30, 2020

By Jan Jarvis

Richard Loew Alumni Unt Health Science Center Fc

Dr. Richard Loew

Dr. Richard Loew was volunteering at a medical clinic in the Bahamas in late March when someone handed him a phone.

“I pulled down my mask to answer it,”’ he said. “In that moment, I was exposed.”

Five days later, the 1986 Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine alumnus tested positive for COVID-19.  He is among the thousands of healthcare workers who have gotten sick while taking care of others.

Like many of the people he was treating, he soon developed a fever and muscles aches. He also had the sensation he was choking on tiny fibers and lost his sense of smell.

“I’d get in the sauna and turn it on as high as I could get it to warm up,” he said.  “For five days, I felt like somebody’s wet laundry.”

Dr. Loew had been a volunteer even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country. Following Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Dr. Loew and his wife Donna, traveled to the Bahamas, where they lived on a boat. The couple volunteered at a school and clinic.

“I wanted to provide free medical care to the people there,” he said. “They needed help; there are no physicians within 100 square miles.”

When Dr. Loew became ill, the couple returned to their home in Florida to quarantine themselves there. Within two days, she also developed symptoms of COVID-19.

During April, the couple has been in quarantine in their Florida home. He would like to return to his volunteer work, but that seems unlikely for now. Two negative tests are required.

“I can’t volunteer until prove I’m immune and to do that I need to test negative,” he said. “Now I can’t volunteer anywhere.”

He would also like to donate plasma, but must wait until he has been symptom-free for 28 days.

His wife is still positive and has been shedding the virus since April 4. She volunteers at a non-profit cat rescue in Florida but has been unable to return to her work.

Dr. Loew, who specialized in emergency medicine, retired in 2006 after undergoing four back surgeries.

Next, he plans to teach ethics at medical school. Until he can return to the classroom, he plans to stay safely at home.

“The quarantine has saved millions of live,” he said, “But like anything else, it has to end.”

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