Everyone who experiences COVID-19 symptoms can relay different things. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who is rebounding from the virus, had not only physical ailments but also some trepidation.
Letang has recovered enough that he has not ruled out playing Thursday when the Philadelphia Flyers visit PPG Paints Arena. “I felt pretty good (Wednesday),” he said.
“I thought he had a pretty good practice (Wednesday),” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, adding that a decision will come Thursday.
That might have seemed like a long shot not too many days ago for Letang, who has missed the past four games.
Letang said he had “pretty much all the symptoms — congestion, headaches, pressure in the forehead, coughing, lost taste and smell, body aches, a lot of pain in the lower back, stuff like that.”
In reality, Letang did not experience all the affects of the virus that has been the root of a pandemic for nearly two years. He did not experience the kind of respiratory distress that has left millions hospitalized, on ventilators and even dead.
Letang’s symptoms in his breakthrough case of the virus were considered mild by medical standards. He said they “lasted between four and five days, and after that it was just getting better and better every day.”
But those early days were difficult, he said.
“The first four days you can’t even do anything. You’re so tired, and you have all the symptoms. But the last five days I wish I could have exercised, but per protocol I had to wait and get all my screening done.”
He returned to skating Monday, skated for what he said was 90 minutes Tuesday, and on Wednesday Letang was a full participant with his teammates at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. He called skating those first two days “pretty hard,” adding that he felt it in his lungs.
By Wednesday, it was easier.
“I wouldn’t say I’m where I want to be, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to get there pretty quickly.”
He is one of eight Penguins players who have tested positive for COVID-19 this season (not counting goaltender Tristan Jarry’s false positive). One of the latest is Sidney Crosby. there has been a mix of whether they have had symptoms, and for those who have, the symptoms have been labeled mild. Winger Zach Aston-Reese recounted his symptoms upon his return.
Letang had perhaps an extra level of risk because he had a stroke in 2014 and has a small hole in his heart. COVID-19 can affect the heart, including myocarditis, something that sidelined former Penguin Josh Archibald. However, Archibald was not vaccinated, while Letang is.
As of last month, the CDC reported that of more than 187 million people vaccinated against COVID-19, about 7,000 of them had died, a minuscule percentage.
“I’m informed of everything that can go wrong,” Letang said. “It was a concern. I was a little bit nervous. But when I saw the end of the symptoms, and all the tests I had to go through at the hospital and everything was good, I was pretty relieved. But for sure the first four days when you’re feeling not that good and you’re laying in bed just thinking about the worst, sometimes it kind of creeps in your mind, but it went away quickly so…”
Even though the virus seems to be running through the Penguins locker room despite players being vaccinated, Letang said that is not a reflection of a lackadaisical attitude or overly risky behavior.
“I think we’re a pretty safe group, to be honest,” Letang said. “We want to have the best group (on the ice) every single night. COVID brings a lot of adversity this year toward that. Concern, yes, but at the same time it’s a risk that we’re living with.”
Letang said it remains difficult to know how to handle things with his family, including his children.
“You try to put them in the safest position and still have a normal life, but it’s hard, to be honest. I don’t have the right answers. I don’t think anyone does yet.”