On March 17, Dick Kryzer, a 12-year Local 49 member and plant operator for MET Council, experienced the first symptoms of what would later be confirmed as COVID-19.
Kryzer is a plant operator at a wastewater treatment plant and is responsible for cleaning water so that it can be re-used. This requires efficiently treating the wastewater, performing tests, and sending samples to multiple labs to ensure that the water meets Minnesota pollution control requirements before it is then released back into the Mississippi River.
“There are only four of us that run the plant, and on the weekends, only one of us operates the plant, so it’s a shared responsibility between all of us,” Kryzer said.
Kryzer said it was during one of those weekend shifts where he started to feel the beginning symptoms of what would be diagnosed as COVID-19.
“On that Saturday, when I was scheduled to work, I just felt terrible and experienced aches, pains, and a headache, so I finished my shift and went home. By 11:00 that night, I had a fever of 103 degrees, and I had to have someone cover for me on my Sunday shift so that no other employee would get sick,” Kryzer said.
Kryzer stated that after experiencing those symptoms for longer than three days, he called his primary care doctor to attempt to be seen.
“I was first told that I shouldn’t come into the hospital as I didn’t have enough symptoms, but just a few days later is when I started to develop the cough, so that’s when I went into a special COVID-19 clinic,” Kryzer said.
Kryzer was then tested for both strains of Influenza as well as a strep throat test – which all came back as negative.
“I was told that I probably did have COVID-19, but at that point in time they were only testing medical professionals, so I was told to return home, treat my symptoms, and quarantine,” he said.
A few days after he returned home, Kryzer’s symptoms took a turn for the worse.
“I remember it was the night of March 29, and I couldn’t breathe at all. My wife called the ambulance, and I was taken to the emergency room where I was started on oxygen,” he said.
It was that night, 12 days after he first started showing symptoms, that Kryzer received his COVID-19 test and tested positive.
“I was in intensive care for five days, so in total, I spent about a week in the hospital before I started to feel better,” he said.
Kryzer said that while dealing with the symptoms was extremely hard. It was even more difficult to go through it alone.
“I am very grateful to the nurses and doctors that helped me. They were all wonderful but other than seeing them; you’re in isolation. Your family can’t come and see you, and that was heartbreaking for them and for me,” he said. “Though I am glad that no one else got sick.”
None of Kryzer’s family or co-workers reported symptoms during the time that he was sick.
“At work, there’s only four of us that run that plant, and every plant is different, so it’s not like my employer could call someone from another plant to fill in,” Kryzer said.
After Kryzer and his family were completed with their quarantine, the Minnesota Health Department cleared Kryzer to return to work.
“The MET Council was very supportive throughout the whole process, and even now we have all the personal protective equipment that we need, they sanitize daily, and everyone practices social distancing,” Kryzer said.
As an essential worker, it was critical for Kryzer to return to work as soon as he was able to. Many Local 49 members are considered an essential worker, and Kryzer is just one of many examples of how Local 49 members are a vital part of our society.
From ensuring that there is clean water to making sure that our roads and bridges are safe to commute on, Local 49 members are an essential part of ensuring that we remain a functioning and safe society.
For more member stories visit www.local49.org