CBS46 anchor Rick Folbaum’s bout with COVID-19: ‘I felt awful. I slept for about 10 straight days, 20 hours a day.’

Rick Folbaum, CBS46 evening anchor, has been back working full time after a two-week bout with the novel coronavirus.

The 50-year-old veteran anchor, who joined CBS46 last fall, spoke to me about his experience. Here are excerpts from the interview:

How he got it: "I went on a ski trip which I go on every year with some buddies. And we go to Vail, Colorado. We were there from March 11 to 15. In hindsight, we shouldn't have gone. But we did. Everyone on the trip got sick. All my buddies ended up getting coronavirus. That's why there's no mystery. I know where I got it." [Everyone has recovered, he noted.]

When he started feeling it: "I got back to Atlanta and felt fine. I went to work on Monday, March 16th. I did my 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts and was hit by a wave of exhaustion. I hit a wall. Out of nowhere, I put my head down at my desk and fell asleep before the 6 p.m. newscast in a busy newsroom. In 25 years, I'd never done that. I realized what was going on and I immediately left."

How he got tested: "I have a pre-existing health condition: Crohn's disease [a chronic inflammatory bowel disease], which is under control, thankfully, and continues to be. Because of that, I knew that I was concerned so I called my doctor. He said to go to the hospital and call ahead so they know you're coming. I had a pre-existing condition so I was able to get a test at Northside Hospital. They told me to assume it was positive, to go home and isolate. I got the test back on Saturday and it was positive."

How did he feel: "I felt awful. I've been sick before. I've been exhausted as a parent of young kids. This was something at an entirely different level. I slept for about 10 days, 20 hours a day. I would try to pop my head up for some fresh air.  I couldn't do it."

But he was lucky: "I didn't get the most serious side effects. I did have some tightness in the chest the first week. I did have a cough. But I was able to breathe. I never had that feeling where I couldn't take a breath so I didn't need to go to the hospital again."

Other side effects: "I had no appetite. The only thing I could consume was soup. I lost 12 pounds. I didn't have any sense of smell or taste. I tried to smell my minty toothpaste and couldn't smell anything. The soup tasted like nothing. It was very strange. On day 13, those senses finally began to come back. I knew that was a sign things were getting better. I was very anxious to get back to work. As a news guy, to be sidelined during such a major news event went against my every professional instinct I had developed over the years."

Home studio set up: "I started to come back on April 4. I worked part time, eased into it. One of my colleagues, a photographer, came over to my home to set up my studio. He didn't get tested but had all the symptoms. Since then, I've done some reporting as well. And I decided to tell my story. I didn't want to keep it to myself. I want to give people hope. People watch newscasts hearing all this awful news of people dying. I really want viewers to know it really is scary but you can survive this. You can fully recover. I am proof of that. [His co-anchor] Tracye [Hutchins] put a story together, told my coronavirus story, how I got it and what I felt like. We aired it and posted it online. I can't tell you the outpouring of comments from people who said thank you for sharing this. 'I'm so scared for my family and seeing you looking so well and living through it has really given me some comfort.'"

And more good fortune: "My family, my kids didn't get it. And as far as I know, nobody in the office got it as a result of me."

How he's handling things now: "I try to limit my trips. I only go out for necessities and come back home. I wear a mask just in case. I"m just trying to be cautious and do the best I can to follow the guidelines and do my part to help us get past this."

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