COVID-19 survivor: ‘Three weeks of hell’

Despite his own experience, Woody Mitchell, an Island construction manager, says MV should allow small crews on construction sites.

COVID-19 survivors Patti and Woody Mitchell and their dog, Brady, at their home in Sandwich. — GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE

Woody Mitchell, a project manager with Squash Meadow Construction, went through “three weeks of hell” with COVID-19.

Mitchell, a commuter to the Island from Sandwich, said both he and his wife, Patti, were diagnosed with the virus. Because he has underlying medical issues, his doctor told him to go to the Falmouth Hospital emergency room.

“I was in the Falmouth ER coughing up blood,” Mitchell, 59, told The Times.

Mitchell said he last commuted to the Island on Friday, March 13. That Sunday he started to feel symptoms and by Thursday they were so bad he wound up at the ER. He has no idea where he may have contracted the virus.

“All of a sudden the lights went off, the banners started going up, the people started throwing on masks and garb and everything. Signs went on the door. The doctor wouldn’t even come back into the room to talk to me. He talked to me through a speaker. They tested me and said we’re going to send you home.”

Mitchell got the call on Monday, March 23, that his test came back positive. His wife, Patti, went through the Cape Cod Community College drive-through testing site and her case was confirmed later that week.

Both had symptoms so bad that they each considered calling an ambulance. Mitchell said his wife insisted that he not call first responders for her. The couple’s son, Dustin, 28, died on Feb. 1. He had a cyst on his spine, Mitchell said, and that was still weighing heavy on his wife. In a year, Dustin went from being a manager of Savers in Plymouth to being confined to a wheelchair and, ultimately, dying from complications from pneumonia.

“She said, ‘Don’t call the hospital because I don’t want to die alone,’” Mitchell said. “It was emotional. It was trying. I lost a week and half where I just don’t remember anything.”

Mitchell said he and his wife both had fevers, but had different symptoms. While she had violent headaches, Mitchell had more body aches. He also lost his sense of smell and taste, which recently emerged as a symptom for some patients with COVID-19. Both had respiratory issues. She had a cough so severe she felt like she broke a rib.

“A couple of times she was going to call the ambulance for me. She was scared to death,” he said.

Mitchell said his doctor has told him the antibodies he has built up should keep him safe from the current strain, but all bets are off if there is a new strain of the virus that emerges.

Meanwhile, his wife is undergoing testing to see if her antibodies can help others stricken by COVID-19.

Mitchell brings an interesting perspective to the ongoing debate about the construction ban on Martha’s Vineyard. On Tuesday he was part of the conversation with the working group about trying to reopen some sites beginning April 22. He has a vested interest with his job, but he’s also had the disease and recovered from it.

Woody Mitchell, shown here with his wife, Patti, who also had COVID-19.

“I think honestly, we could reopen it. I think if it’s done the way the committee is looking at doing it by limiting the number of people on job sites, requiring PPE, if you can do social distancing. They want us to have hand wash stations at every site. They want us to have paper towels. I think the way  the committee has lined it up, and right now for phase one, they only want to allow two people per job site,” he said. “Looking at it from the perspective that I would never want to wish this on anybody, I do think that’s a safe way to go and to start and if done properly, which is how they’re trying to do it, I think we need to.”

He said it could be devastating for the Island’s economy not to reopen the construction industry. “Is that a terrible thing? No, if it’s going to save a life, it’s not a terrible thing. But if it can be done properly and preserve it, I think we need to do it.”


  1. Glad they seem to be recovering and condolences on the loss of their son.

    Was there contact tracing? It sounds like the husband gave it to the wife, but it’s not clear.

    From the perspective of Mr Mitchell, who doesn’t know how or from whom he contracted the virus, but who thinks that 2-person work crews are okay… NO. Not when one of them could be a silent carrier. Reading this story should convince everyone that “all it takes is one”.

  2. Jackie, that is the First time I have ever seen you write any brief sympathetic sentence and I bet the last.

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