HughE Dillon Covid19 Story

Today is three weeks since my life changed. I’ve chronicled my covid19 online via Twitter, FB and Instagram, but I just want to record it here on my blog as well for my memory. Welcome Back to PhillyChitChat online. I’ll be posting every day going forward, back in business…#PhillyStrong
PS If you scroll down to the bottom, the 2nd paragraph from the top will hopefully answer most of your questions on my symptoms and timeline or you can read my story.

March 16 I woke up to a different Philadelphia. It was to be my first full day of self-isolation even though I had already started to pull back following the advice of the government. Plus I have several underlying issues which at anytime could cause my death if I don’t maintain a healthy life, over the age of 50 I was in the high risk category, and was in the throes of anxiety over being infected by the coronavirus.

The evening before I suffered two panic attacks which woke me from a deep sleep. We are all so worried about ourselves, loved ones and humanity. We are caring people.

Since my business was on pause with most of the events I was scheduled to shoot in the coming days cancelled, my calendar was open for at least a month. I was excited to take this pause as a time to organize my office, and photos, work on projects around the house and finally read the pile of business books I had bought over the years.

Instead early Monday morning I woke up to excruciating back pain, a cough, a low fever, pressure in my chest and body aches. I spent the day taking a series of hot showers which was the only way I could find any relief, and was somewhat perplexed by what was happening thinking did I throw out my back. But as the day went on my anxiety increased until I finally called  my doctor’s office near 5pm, just to inquire if they knew where I could get the coronavirus test. I explained my symptoms, adding that I had just photographed 3 events the past week, and went to a funeral. Not only was experiencing painful symptoms, but my anxiety level was through the roof with the responsibility having come in contact with all these people. After a series of questions with 3 levels of people including Jefferson Hospital, my doctor told me her office was just setting up testing, and scheduled an appointment for the next day at 3pm.

A lot of people are walking around with the virus who might not have all the symptoms talked about. I had a low fever 99.5F, and a serious back pain, which at the time wasn’t listed as symptom but has since been talked about by Covid19 survivors. Wear a mask. Covid19 is an involving situation with symptoms and prevention.

We arrive at my doctor’s office. I call the office and the intake nurse comes out and greets me with a mask, but I have one on already as I had the flu from 12/20 – 1/20 and I bought some at that time as I was at my mom’s for Christmas. After questions, I was directed to the parking lot behind the building where the doctor swabbed me (It did hurt but very little as they shoved the q tip up your nose, but it’s only a quick pain like a needle) and checked my chest telling me that I didn’t have an infection in my chest yet.

At this time it was still somewhat of a mystery on how people could get this test. I was so excited to tell people because I hadn’t known myself until I reached out to a few of my reporter friends who told me to call my doctor. I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing that. I continue to stress people quarantine at home, let’s flatten the curve.

March 18, 2020 – Event planners flower bomb Rittenhouse Square. Two readers send me photos. It’s beautiful, I struggle with posting them as I don’t want encourage people to go see it. I check out social media and there’s already several posts on the floral arrangements. it’s an Instagram paradise in this bleak world and people are adults and will hopefully social distance. It’s too beautiful not to share. I feel ok today. I think maybe I was just being paranoid, maybe it was allergies even though my back still hurts and I take another 4 showers today. My fever returns, it’s not high just 99.9. I’m fatigued and sleep a lot. I arrange with the event planner to get the photos for Fox29 and Philly Voice. (Sorry I can’t remember their name right now)

March 19, 2020 – I talk to several of my entrepreneur friends asking them when will this end. How will this end. Everyone of them tells me it will end, and they will be ready to help Philly get back on it’s feet. I realize that society/publicity photos may be on hold for awhile. But I will be accepting advertisements to get the word out there when we’re back all back in business, and they’re going to be BOGO Free affordable.

Church in New Orleans I visited in January

During the day I come down with a new symptom, a head cold with a splitting headache, and a low grade fever. It’s the first day of spring. I’m running out of pandemic food. I wasn’t expecting to quarantine, just social distancing, so I never went shopping to pack the pantry as I live near Whole Foods and I have a supermarket in my building, Klein’s Market.  I order dinner from Little Pete’s which is also downstairs. For $15 you get a 4 course dinner. My friends and I discover zoom and 4 way talking on cell phones. We spend hours on the phone. I tell them about taking the test and every day they ask about my symptoms.  

Wondering when my test will come back. I only told 4 friends about taking the test. The doctor told me the test would be back in 2 to 3 days.

March 20, 2020 – I tweet “I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day.” Don’t we all.  I tweet about the incubation period of the virus. I know today is probably the day I’m going to get my test back. I take a hot shower for my aching back. When I get out I see the doctor called. She asks how I feel, I tell her my back is still extremely painful, and now I have a cold with a fever. She tells me those are symptoms of the coronavirus and my test came back positive. Despite having symptoms all week, I am still shocked and begin to cry. My worst fear has come true, and I’m going to die a painful death. That’s the only message I’ve been hearing on the news.

I inform all the event planners of the events I had photographed going back to the Saturday night beforehand. I contact all my friends who I had been with in the past week, as well as my friend who’s mother’s funeral I attended. I had also seen my cousin at the funeral, I call him. I tell them that if they are exhibiting any symptoms they are to call their doctor and tell them they had a first person encounter who has tested positive. I contact my condo building.

I go back to sleep. I’m exhausted.

When I’m not sleeping I ponder about what to do about telling the general public. I want to make sure everyone who had come in contact with me the past week knew about me testing positive for Coronavirus in case they came down with the symptoms. It was a very emotional day, to know I could have altered someone’s life even though I had no idea I have been infected. I’m still experiencing mild symptoms and I also want people to know not everyone develops severe symptoms that would land them in the hospital. I am the first person with Covid19 people know in Philly, and in my building. There’s a flurry of questions from everyone.

Thank you to everyone for all your prayers. I did a few interviews for press after this tweet but my symptoms would soon turn from mild to wild. My building notifies the residents that someone has tested positive. I receive emails from people wondering if I ran into their mother, father, sister, etc. I actually didn’t run into too many people as I have a schedule that’s opposite of so many who go to bed early, after Jeopardy.

The Phila Health Department called to get background information, as well as inform me about Covid19. A lot of what was told to me wasn’t public, and I had never heard it before. They were only concerned with who I had come in contact 72 hrs before my symptoms occurred. That would take me back to Friday, but because one of my friends didn’t feel well they would consider Thursday night as we had gone out to dinner. I would be considered negative 72hrs after my fever broke, and 7 days after my last symptom. That was kinda an odd timeline. I give her the names of the 4 people I had come in contact for more than 10 minutes during those days. Interesting they weren’t concerned about folks I ran into at the supermarket, unless I was coughing or sneezing at the time. I wasn’t as I was asymptomatic. One of the people I had come in contact that weekend was someone I shared an elevator with who called me Saturday morning. She was very upset and said she felt she was ill from me. I was devastated.

I follow up with my 3 of the people who I came in contact that week, as well as my cousin at the funeral. Two still feel ill, and the women in the elevator tells me she has no symptoms, it was probably anxiety. I am so relieved.


The interviews I did Friday night were now obsolete as I got very sick Friday night. Between Friday to Monday afternoon I suffered an incredible back ache, I was nauseous, had body aches and body twitches which woke me up, a terrible headache, a high fever and was short of breath. I packed a bag for the hospital and charged phone batteries. I pray constantly.

Monday I’m scheduled to chitchat with the two stations where I contribute, CBSPhilly and Fox29, but I cancelled in the middle of the night as I thought I was going to die, seriously. The room was spinning and my temperature had climbed to 102F. I know when Chris Cuomo would mentioned later he was hallucinating, he was telling the truth. I wake up with a rash all over my upper body, I’m fighting a g’damn virus.


Another symptom of Covid19 is fear. Fear of a relapse, fear of death, fear of what if’s, fear for humanity, fear of economy, fear of my future. At this time I am answering 100s of emails and messages of people who are also experiencing fear, anxiety and symptoms. Everyone I came in contact with who has taken the covid19 test tells me they’re negative. I wonder should I tell people, because I believe it is contagious, but no one I came in contact with came down with it, one of them I sleep with every night.

Update by Thursday Brett was off the ventilator, but still had a long way to go.

A few families and friends of victims contact me. A plasma company contacts me. In a few days I learn I am not eligible as I am gay and the FDA has rules against gay/bisexual men donating blood. In the course of the week they change the restriction policy from no donations after a year of no sex, to 3 months of abstinence. It doesn’t matter that I’m in a monogamous 25 year relationship. I’m willing to do abstain, but a lot of people are going to die before the 3 months is up. Although by this point I had decided to stop doing interviews because I felt I was becoming the face of Covid19 (I tried to convince a few new friends I met who also tested positive to the virus to do media to quell the fear, they all decided it wasn’t something they wanted to do. I understand, there is a little bit of stigma attached to being so public. BUT THERE is a lot of love as well), I do a bunch of interviews on the subject.

I still have body aches, and last week I had the most excruciating pain in my hands. So bizarre.

I have survivors guilt, and I sometimes cry for those still suffering and dying, especially when I’m alone in the middle of the night.

Many people want to know what were my first symptoms. Low fever, cough, a sore throat and back pain for the first 5 days. Then day 6 through 8 is when I had more serious symptoms, high fever, chest pressure and stabbing pains in my lungs, body aches, dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Days 7 through 8 loss of taste and smell, day 9 through 14, head cold, sneezing, cough, fatigue. Day 15 to to yesterday: Head cold, cough, and fatigue. Today: I feel good . If I make it all day without a cough, today will be day 1. I want to walk out my front door, throw out my trash, get my mail and see Fairmount Park which is nearby. I want to run to the Rocky Statue while humming the Rocky Theme and thank God that I’m alive!!

Thank you so much Philadelphia for all your love, support, notes, and prayers. I will remain quarantined in my house ie condo, meaning I don’t even go out the front door to throw out my trash, until 7 days after these symptoms go away. Then, even though I will be negative, and have the antibodies, I will wear a mask like everyone else. I will be immune until next season when the beast comes back again says Dr Fausi.