By Jeff Roberson
Dan Ballard and his wife, Sandra, took their family on a trip in mid-March. It’s the type of extended excursion they make annually.
“Each year, we take our kids and grandkids to Aspen snow skiing,” said the Tupelo businessman and Ole Miss alumnus. “This was during spring break.”
But this time things were a little different. While some had begun taking precautions against the Coronavirus spread being discussed in the news, Ballard admittedly says he wasn’t thinking about it much.
“I didn’t really pay any attention to hand washing or oral hygiene, and so on and so forth, as I should have,” Ballard said. “I came back and this stuff jumped on me.”
This particular coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is the interchangeable reference to the “stuff” Ballard is mentioning. Once they returned to Tupelo on March 15, he was a sick man before long.
“It came on fairly strong,” he said. “The next Sunday they carried me to the hospital, and I spent two days there. They dismissed me and told me I could go home, and I did, of course. I kept taking medicines they gave me. I’ve been doing good. I feel good. I am weak, and the bad part about it is I can’t think as well. I hope that comes back.”
The entire process of recovery takes time, and for each patient it appears to be different. Some have had much longer hospital stays than Ballard, and some have unfortunately lost their battle with COVID-19.
Ballard feels much of his ability to move along in the recovery process is how he has taken care of himself.
“One thing I attribute to mine is that I’m in good shape,” he said. “I run, I walk, and out in Aspen I skied all those mountains. I felt good. But when I got home, it hit me.”
Being younger has seemed to work to the advantage for many, but not all, who contract COVID-19.
Full disclosure – Ballard said he will be 82 years old May 29.
He said he has had two negative tests since his hospital stay, and he is certainly pleased by that.
“If I get around somebody, I still need to wear my mask, things like that,” he said. “But just being out and about (and not around people), I don’t have to wear it anymore. I’ve been down at my store piddling around and so forth. When I’m down there around people, I wear my mask. I’m not going to take any chances around my employees by any means.”
Ballard, a Mooreville High School graduate who attended Ole Miss in the late ’50s to 1961, is a businessman in the Tupelo area. He owns Dan’s Rent-to-Own, Danco Finance, and rental properties.
He said he actually cannot recall some of the worst moments and hours as he dealt with the virus.
“I don’t really know what happened when they sent me to the hospital,” he said. “I was out of it. I had a 105-degree temperature. They gave me the (Coronavirus) test then.”
Once he returned to his home, he was not around any family for days except his wife.
“She did not have (the virus),” he said.
As Ballard continues to gain strength, he mentions what he should have done, especially on the spring break trip.
“I should have practiced better oral hygiene and washed my hands often, things like that,” he said. “They told me it was something like the flu, and I knew I’d had the flu before. I thought (if I get it) in a week, I’ll be back at it.”
But that was not the case, and Ballard is glad to have it behind him, along with taking more precautions than before.
“Everybody else was washing their hands and taking care of themselves that way, and none of them got it. My son-in-law said he called that hard-headedness,” Ballard said with a laugh.
Now, in mid-April and headed toward another birthday, Dan Ballard is quite happy to be laughing and enjoying life. He’s looking forward to more trips with his family and attending Ole Miss games.
“We need to be over there and support our new coach,” he said of Lane Kiffin, hopeful the games return in the fall. “I’m OK. I’ve got the (COVID-19) antibodies.”
For now, he is on his journey back to being 100 percent while reminding himself and others what to do.
“I got out there and was skiing those slopes and did real well as far as handling the skis,” he said. “I just didn’t wash my hands enough. Like my son-in-law said, I’m hard-headed. But I learned my lesson.”