Tiffin family shares story of 18-year-old son’s recovery from coronavirus

Dimitri Mitchell sits in a hospital bed at Mercy Iowa City in March 2020. (COURTESY IRENA YODER)
Dimitri Mitchell sits in a hospital bed at Mercy Iowa City in March 2020. (COURTESY IRENA YODER)(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 5, 2020 at 9:48 PM CDT
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In the span of about a week, Dimitri Mitchell went from enjoying a quick weekend trip with friends to Lansing in Allamakee County, during his last spring break of high school, to feeling like he “had been hit by a truck.”

“This was definitely the most sick I’ve ever felt in my life,” Mitchell, a senior at Clear Creek Amana High School, said. “I usually get a pretty bad cold every year, at least once a year, but this was definitely the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Shortly after returning home to Tiffin from that trip, 18-year-old Mitchell said he became sick, starting with a cough.

“The cough started getting worse, and then the other symptoms came after that, like the fever and the sweating and stuff like that,” he said.

After calling their doctor, Mitchell’s mother, Irena Yoder, took her son to Mercy Iowa City, where she said her son was given a steroid shot and was told to treat his illness “like a regular flu.” Hospital workers couldn’t test Mitchell for coronavirus because he didn’t meet the Iowa Department of Public Health and State Hygienic Lab’s testing criteria, as he had not been hospitalized with a fever and respiratory failure and is younger than 60 years old, according to Yoder.

The next night, Yoder said, Mitchell woke her up and asked to go back to the hospital. His condition had worsened and he had developed a fever and “horrible” headache.

After another trip to Mercy, Mitchell was prescribed medication but again was sent home and couldn’t be tested for coronavirus.

“The doctor told us because I didn’t have any problems breathing, the reason they were sending us home was because they didn’t want me to potentially spread the virus to other people,” Mitchell said.

Yoder said she then called the Iowa Department of Public Health’s 211 hotline, and after speaking with a health employee, was finally able to secure a coronavirus test for her son, which came back positive.

“When they actually came back with the test results positive, I was still really surprised that it actually affected me, especially because I don’t have any health problems or anything like that either,” Mitchell said.

But after returning home from the second trip to the hospital, Yoder said her son’s condition got even worse, and his fever climbed up to 105 degrees.

At times, Mitchell’s chest felt like it was on fire.

“Each time you would cough, it hurts, and you have that burning sensation,” he recalled.

Meanwhile, Yoder was checking on her son constantly, bringing him whatever food he could bear to eat, refreshing a cold towel for his head, and changing his sheets multiple times a day.

“I would go afterwards and cry in my bedroom or just listen behind his door and in our hallway, how well he’s doing, but I would never show to him I was so worried. I wanted to keep myself positive,” Yoder said.

A few days later, she knew Mitchell was finally feeling better, when she heard him playing his Xbox.

“He was saying, ‘Yay, yay!’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘This is so cool right now. He’s coming back to normal.'”

Yoder said neither she nor Mitchell had left their home after their second trip to the hospital, so they're thankful for friends who stopped by to drop off groceries and meals on their doorstep.

Mitchell said that as of Saturday, he is now cleared by the Iowa Department of Public Health from his quarantine and took a walk outside because he finally could.

“I’m just glad to be recovering finally,” he said.

While taking care of her son, Yoder too started feeling sick, so she plans to stay home and quarantine for a little while longer. She said that she hasn’t been able to be tested for the coronavirus.