‘Patient zero’ in Tennessee shares experience with COVID-19

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The man who became the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Tennessee describes his experience as “all over the board,” confronting the feared virus and “mass hysteria,” while also receiving comfort from his community.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday, Chris Baumgartner explained that his family has “had a front row seat to the mass hysteria we are now experiencing as a nation” and that they have “been part of the story line.”

“For those of you who don’t know, I was patient zero in Tennessee,” Baumgartner said. “That’s right, I’m the 44 year-old dad in Williamson County, who has a son at BGA, works for Biogen, and has 2 family “contacts” living in my household … who really needs HIPAA anyway, right?”

After receiving countless questions about his experience, Baumgartner decided he wanted to post about it to social media.

“Physically, my case was on the mild end of the spectrum, and I continue to recover,” he wrote. “Mentally, our experience has been all over the board. Imagine having to confront a virus, so feared, it now has the entire world on the brink of mass hysteria, while at the same time, being forced to deal with irrational panic, people demanding to know if you are the “one”, where you live, and if you might have somehow infected their child or family.”

Baumgartner said the experience gave him “a whole new appreciation for those who live under the cloud of Stigma every single day of their lives. If this is you, Please know, you are not alone. We are here for you!”

Despite the negative, Baumgartner explained he “also experienced human kindness at its very best.” People brought his family meals, groceries, cards, books and games to pass the time while in quarantine, as well as drawings, paintings and handmade, get-well cards from children.

“We’ve had literally hundreds and hundreds of calls, messages, and texts encouraging us, praying for us, and people pausing from their own challenges in life, to walk through this crazy situation with us,” he wrote.

“Every single act of kindness, every single message, every single call we’ve received, have all ended with the same 5 words: We are praying for you! All.Of.Them!” Baumgartner explained.

He added “something incredible happens when fear and anxiety are replaced with acts of kindness and compassion, God can be experienced in a whole new way for everyone involved.”

“Inside us all lies the ability to decide how we choose to deal with the fear of the unknown, how we decide determines whether fear wins out or humanity shines through. We are so grateful to be surrounded by a community who chose the latter.”

Baumgartner said he learned to find “the church” in a community, we have to be the church to our neighbor. He closed out with a message: #bethechurch.

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