Dakota Dozier details her battle with COVID: "I knew I needed help"

Dozier Heads To His First Season Start After Going Through Hospital For COVID

Editor’s Note: The list of professional athletes and team personnel entering COVID-19 protocols has increased in recent weeks, causing games to be rescheduled across multiple sports. Some unvaccinated NFL players have had to miss a game while in isolation for 10 days, while others who have been vaccinated have had to leave two negative tests 24 hours apart to be eligible to play. But for a Minnesota Vikings player, the virus was much more than an inconvenience. Dakota Dozier’s symptoms became so severe that he had to be hospitalized for three days with what was diagnosed as COVID pneumonia. Almost two months later, the 30-year-old Dozier, a fully vaccinated 6-foot-4, 305-pound guard, may be in line for his first game as a starter of the season when the Vikings face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in Lambeau. Field, because the starting player, Oli Udoh, was placed on the reserve / COVID-19 list. Dozier spoke with ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin about her experience with COVID-19 and how it affected her outlook on the virus.

Some responses have been edited for clarity or for shortness.

On November 5, which was the Friday before the Ravens game, I tested positive. I returned home and tried to figure out what our game plan was with our family. But at the time, I had obviously been close to them, and my wife, Haley, said, “If you have it, I probably have it too.” Me, her, our 3 year old and our 4 month old all had it and honestly over the weekend I didn’t feel too bad. A little cold symptoms, headache, not bad, but I get to Monday and I start to feel more pain, it takes me a little more to breathe.

I was fighting it. I reached out to Vikings athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and team physician Dr. Sheldon Burns and they helped me. He had a few recipes for some things, but when he arrived on Tuesday, he was very sore, sweating. I chose my food for dinner, I was not very hungry. And I looked at Haley around 7:30 and I said, “I have to go to bed. I have to go to bed. I can’t.” I was in bed before 8 and my symptoms kept increasing and did not improve.

We have a small pulse oximeter because our daughter was born premature and we like to monitor her breathing and oxygen levels. We learned that it is generally good to be above 94. I went down to 80 … 80 is pretty far from 94. I had some shortness of breath, I was really shaking and just couldn’t fall asleep. I started coughing, probably a good 20 minutes with no more than 30 seconds between attacks. At the time I thought, I think I need to do something about it. I called Sug, I called Dr. Burns and they told me to go to the hospital. I was feeling pretty bad. I was confident that it would be okay, but I knew that I couldn’t keep taking care of myself. He knew he needed more help.

I think I got to the hospital around 11pm. It was a bit messy because our 3 year old son and our 4 month old daughter were asleep; I just got everyone in the car. We really didn’t know what was happening and they couldn’t come to see me because they had COVID and the hospital wouldn’t let anyone in. She sat in the car with them until probably around 3 or 4 in the morning, trying to figure out what was going to happen.

The doctors checked me out and did a lot of tests, CT scans, everything. They checked my lungs and said I had COVID pneumonia and that’s why I was having such a hard time breathing. I was prescribed remdesivir, which I think is the main drug they use to open the airways and help with COVID.

Once we realized that I was going to have to stay there, my family went home and one of our good friends had just come down with COVID in August and said she felt comfortable coming to help us. It was a huge blessing that they helped Haley, because she was worried that I was in the hospital and had to take care of the kids and obviously everyone had COVID. He said he felt like he had the flu. Our son had a fever for two days and then nothing more, and then our daughter was a bit congested but barely had a fever. Even in our own home, everyone’s symptoms were very mixed.

I wasn’t worried about having to use a fan. I knew from my daughter that she was born premature from oxygen problems and things like that. He knew he was not going to go down that path. Once I got to the hospital, they were worried that it wouldn’t get to that point of how bad it was going to be, but I did. From there, once they stabilized me, they put me in IVs, fluids, everything. Immediately I got better, not worse in the first 12 hours. I felt pretty good once I got to the hospital.

By Thursday, I was feeling much, much better, and then on Friday they let me go.

I lost around 10 pounds during the whole process. Even the walk from my room to the car was maybe a 3 minute walk, and I was hectic. I was really out of breath. Like wow! this is crazy. It took me a little time to recover. Once I did my 10 day quarantine and was allowed to return to the facility, I went back and did my first training and I was really, really exhausted.

My lungs, the pneumonia aspect, I think it really took a toll on me. As an athlete, you are always training, you are always on the go, all year long you are doing something. But being sedentary during that time is something my body is really not used to. Besides being sick, it really took away my condition. It was kind of revealing in that sense, like, “If I don’t stick with my routine, this is what could happen.”

I definitely put the severity of this virus into perspective. That is what I have talked about with a lot of people. Some people literally have no symptoms. For some people it is a cold. Some people are closer to my situation, and other people are with fans. After feeling the impact, I am thankful that we have taken precautions, and I am very happy that there is a vaccine, and it is totally up to people if they want to get it. It’s your choice. I appreciate that everything went well. My whole family is fine. Obviously, I was hospitalized for three days, but everyone else went very well.

I got vaccinated through the team. It was kind of funny. All the boys were here asking each other if we were going to get the vaccine, and they offered it. There were like two or three who were going to get vaccinated and then all the offensive linemen decided to do it too. It was good to see that either because they didn’t want to wait 30 minutes to enter the building after the test or wear a mask, I’m glad we all got vaccinated. Besides that, I am in good physical shape but it was also from the vaccine. That is supposed to help too.

When I came back, people asked me how I was feeling, what was going on. I’m not going to say that what I’ve told someone has changed their mind, but I’m just giving my perspective and what happened in my situation. If you want to get vaccinated, great. I think it has its advantages, but if you don’t get vaccinated, that’s fine too. It is your decision at the end of the day. The boys asked me what I went through and I told them. If that changed their minds, great. If not, it is also your right.

Obviously, this virus is here and will be with us for a while. We just have to be aware of what we are doing, but at the same time not be isolated. You just have to live life to the best of your ability.