Mountain Bike Action Test Rider Talks About His Wild Ride on COVID-19, Getting So Sick He Thought He Might Die (Updated from April 10, 2020)

We originally shared our Q&A with Moe Hutchison on the MBA website in April. The medical advice has changed since then, but Moe's account of his experience riding out COVID-19 gives a good idea of what the symptoms are like. By John Ker/MBA

                    Moe Hutchison, in action during his test rider days at Mountain Bike Action.

We saw on social media that our friend and long-time MBA test rider Moe Hutchison was getting over a long bout with the coronavirus in early April. We called him on the phone to find out how he was doing. Then after catching up with him on the phone for a few minutes, we asked him if it would be okay with him if we e-mailed him some questions about his experience. He agreed. Note that some of his answers about medical treatment options for the virus have changed in the last eight months.

What made you think you might have COVID-19?

I actually thought I had the regular flu for the first four days I was sick—fairly mild symptoms, very low fever, etc. But then on the fifth day it really took off! I was alternating between very high fever and chills like I’ve never experienced before. I’m talking about being-under-thick- blankets-for-a-couple-hours-before-I-stopped-shivering kind of chills. This was also accompanied by aches all the way to my bones. It sounds odd, but my bones and joints hurt. I also had moderate itching on my back and chest, which was very odd, and of course, lots of gross stuff coming up whenever I would cough. So, on that fifth day, I knew this was not influenza.

When do you think you caught it?

I am fairly certain I got it at the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. I am not pointing the finger at anybody, as it was very early days for this here in the U.S., but when you’ve got a highly communicable virus and several thousand people in a venue like that, it’s bound to happen. Also, I spoke to a lot of other vendors from that festival and a number of them shared stories of flu-like symptoms, of varying severity, shortly after the festival.

How did you get tested?

On the seventh day of being sick, the third day of high-level symptoms, I finally felt safe to drive. Since the fifth day of this, I had been feeling light-headed, moments of dizziness, and for a short while I was seeing sort of sparkles in my vision, so I knew better than to drive. But, on the seventh day, I felt safe to drive and not injure myself or anyone else. So I drove to the doctor to get tested. Luckily they did have tests available, and four days later they called with the news that I tested positive. With the symptoms I had, I was not surprised. I’d also like to note that my sister is an MD, specializing in pediatric endocrinology, with a Ph.D . in signal transduction, which is the study of how cells communicate with each other, and I was in communication with her daily, by phone. So I knew what symptoms to look out for.

What was the test like?

The test is definitely uncomfortable, but in no way the worst test I’ve ever had. They have what looks like a tiny but long toilet-scrubber brush, and they shove that up your nose all the way into your sinuses. Very uncomfortable, but thankfully very brief.

What did the medical personnel tell you?

I got an influenza test before they gave me the coronavirus/COVID test. That test only takes about 5 minutes to get the results back. So we discussed that, and then the nurse disappeared for a few minutes and then came back with the COVID test. Not a lot of talking, as everyone had masks on, and being medical professionals they kept the chatting to a minimum.

How long did it take for you to find out that you tested positive?

I received a phone call with the results four days after the test, which is actually fairly quick given the number of tests being administered at the moment.

Did any of the doctors or nurses call you?

Yeah, it was the doctor that administered the test that called and gave me the results. I also got another call from my state Health and Safety office (I live in Arizona). And they asked many questions about my symptoms, how I got it, etc., and I was more than happy to share my experience.

What did you do when you found out you had it?

Not a lot changed for me as I had already isolated myself days earlier at the first sign of any symptoms. And I was already certain that I had the virus, given the severity of my symptoms, so I had already kind of processed it before I got the official result.

Did you have anybody to help take care of you?

I’ve got my little dog Bluebelle! But seriously my dog has been an amazing companion through this. She definitely knew I was not well, so she was always at my side. But being divorced and currently single through this was both good and bad. I am happy to live alone because I did not give this horrible bug to someone else. And I have to show my gratitude to my sister and many, many friends for calling, texting and sending messages of encouragement. It would have been so much harder without people in my life reaching out. And a special thank you to the brave friends that dropped food off for me—genuine superstars!

What was the illness like?

You will often hear this illness described as 10 times worse than the flu. While that is absolutely true, it falls short in truly illustrating how debilitating this bug can be. Being asthmatic, working at breathing was the worst. It felt like my lungs were trying to implode. For 5-6 days it was impossible for me to expand my lungs beyond about 30-40%. Just the most intense, sharp pain trying to fill my lungs. Lots of light-headedness, dizziness, achy skin, muscle, joints and bones. That was one of the weirder symptoms; my bones hurt, my joints hurt, and my old back injury hurt again. And the itchiness, strange itchiness on my chest and back that was in no way relieved by scratching. Slight vision issues, mild headaches, extreme fatigue, you name it, this bug has everything! Fortunately, I was spared the nausea and diarrhea! Another odd symptom was taste and smell. For several days all I could taste was this weird toxic bacteria flavor, with a hint of aluminum foil and tongue-on-9 volt-battery. Very hard to explain just exactly what that was like. I also had a very low appetite during the worst of it. But I knew if I stopped eating I was going to be in far worse shape. So, during those days, I forced myself to eat despite no appetite and everything tasting super weird/terrible due to what I described above. I am very thankful to be here today! {Editor’s note: There are some indications that eating food and drinking sweetened liquids can actually worsen the symptoms of COVID-19, so check with your medical adviser regarding this subject.]

How high did your fever get?

I got up into the 104 range at the worst of it. I’ve never had a fever like that before, just sweating like crazy, my clothes would be soaked in about one hour. 

How bad was your cough?

My cough was bad, but not the worst I’ve ever had. Being asthmatic, I get bronchitis pretty regularly, and I’ve had worse coughs from that.  

Did you feel any aches and pains?

Definitely! My skin ached, my muscles ached, and my bones and joints ached.

Did you take any medicine for the illness?

The only drug that is currently known to be of any help is Tylenol/acetaminophen, which I took twice a day. As of yet, there are no FDA-approved drugs for this bug. Being asthmatic, I stepped up my dosages of bronchodilators like albuterol and salmeterol. I ate lots of fruit as well.

Did you think about going to a hospital?

Only for a couple of hours at the peak of this illness. It was so strange. I woke up on the morning of the eighth or ninth day of this, feeling the worst I had felt during this whole ordeal. That was the low point. It was then that I did start thinking about hospitalization and what being on a respirator would be like. Would I die? Who would take care of my dog? Would I survive? That was a tough couple of hours. But oddly enough, later that day is when I started to feel better. I was blown away! And later that day is actually when I felt safe enough to drive to the doctor and get tested. That was one of the toughest days of my life but also the day I turned the corner. Hard to explain what that is like.  

How long did it take from the onset of symptoms until you started feeling better?

It was about nine days before I started to improve.

How much of a problem do you think it was that you suffered from asthma?

Absolutely! The biggest risk factors for this are age, high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma. I have high blood pressure and asthma. I feel very fortunate that I have been riding mountain bikes for more than 30 years, and that has kept me fit and strengthened my lungs enough that this did not get worse. A very good friend is a nurse at a hospital with a huge number of COVID patients. He looked at the data from his hospital and 90%+ of patients on ventilators are overweight or obese. I know that being fit from riding for years and years is likely what saved my life.  

How long is an infected person at risk of spreading the virus to others?

This is a devious little bug. The incubation period is 2-14 days before symptoms. Think about what you do in 14 days. And you are able to spread the virus for at least 72 hours after zero symptoms.

How long have did your symptoms last?

My total time of symptoms was about 17-18 days.

How many other people do you know who think they might have the coronavirus?

I have talked to 7-8 people that have had flu-like symptoms, and after sharing what I experienced, it was obvious they had milder cases of COVID. If you look at the reported number of cases, multiply that by 10, then you likely have a more accurate number of total cases.

Did those other people with symptoms get tested?

None of the people I spoke to got tested. They did not think their symptoms were severe enough. But after they described their symptoms, it was obvious they had mild COVID cases.

What are they doing about it?

Nothing at the moment. Everyone I spoke to is already well past it and symptom-free.

When will you be going back to work?

I am already back to work, I really only took about a week off, the week of the worst symptoms. It was nice to get back to having a purpose each day.

What is your job like?

I am very blessed to work from home. I am an outside rep in the bike business, so I run my company from my home office. A huge part of my job is traveling to see my dealers, and I am on the road three weeks a month. So it’s a bit strange not getting in the car to go and help dealers out in person, but I am now on the phone 4-6+ hours per day. Thankfully, all of my dealer customers have been awesome and understanding and more than willing to work exclusively over the phone until we get on the other side of this.

When do you think you’ll start mountain biking again?

I am now on my eighth day of zero symptoms, and I have gotten a couple rides in on the gravel bike. A couple more mellow gravel rides to get my post-COVID fitness back out of the gutter, and then I’ll start doing some mellow mountain rides. Gonna feel it out and not push too hard. Plus I do not want to crash and potentially be hospitalized, potentially taking resources from a COVID patient fighting for their life. It’s all about being smart, so let’s look out for each other!

[Moe is an independent sales representative for Highway Two Distribution. He represents Jamis and  Nirve bicycles, FiveTen footwear, DVO suspension, and SCC Tech Lube.]

Moe Hutchison.

(Photo courtesy of Moe Hutchison)