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State's patient zero speaks

The first person to be diagnosed with coronavirus in Tennessee is speaking out about his experience, recovery and the power of kindness. Pictured is Chris Baumgartner and wife, Holly.

March 21, 2020 Lisa Hobbs - Southern Standard reporter Warren County, TN

Tennessee’s patient zero is speaking out about his experience with COVID-19. Chris Baumgartner, a Biogen employee and resident of Williamson County, is recovering from the disease and he has shared his experiences on Facebook.

“These past few weeks have certainly been interesting, to say the least,” said Baumgartner. “My family has not only had a front-row seat to the mass hysteria we are now experiencing as a nation, but we’ve also been part of the storyline. For those of you who don’t know, I was patient zero in Tennessee. That’s right, I’m the 44-year-old dad in Williamson County, who has a son at BGA, works at Biogen, and has two family ‘contacts’ living in my household. Who really needs HIPAA anyway, right?” Baumgartner answered the question that’s on everyone’s mind: What is it like to have coronavirus?  “Physically, my case was on the mild end of the spectrum and I continue to recover,” he said. “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." "It’s given us 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,” Baumgartner continued. But Baumgartner says he has also received compassion. “At the same time, we’ve also experienced human kindness at its very best. We’ve watched an entire community rally behind us in our time of need. 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.” During the family’s quarantine, people dropped off meals, groceries, cards, books and games to help pass the time, as well as drawings, paintings, and homemade get-well cards.  “These incredible acts of kindness have come from those we know, BUT MANY from those we DON’T know as well, all acting on their own accord,” he said. “They weren’t representing a specific church or organized group, yet the central message they all conveyed has been the same: You are not alone. We are here for you. Even more ... every single act of kindness, every single message, every single call we’ve received, have all ended with the same five words: We are praying for you!”

Baumgartner says each person has to decide between fear or humanity.  “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.”

When contacted by the Southern Standard, he said the outlook for recovery is good. “We are recovering and feel very blessed to have the support of such an amazing community,” said Baumgartner.

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