WKRC-AM morning host Brian Thomas wanted to thank his listeners for all the Facebook and text messages of support during his six-week coronavirus convalescence.
But he didn't have the "energy, ability or desire" to do anything since Thanksgiving.
"I cannot tell you how happy I was to go into work today," says Thomas, who resumed hosting his 5-9 a.m. show Monday. Except for one day, he had been absent since Nov. 20, the Friday before his Thanksgiving vacation. "I just didn't want to do ANYTHING!"
Thomas developed symptoms Thanksgiving week. He believes he got the coronavirus from his daughter Lauren, an Ohio State University graduate student living in their Symmes Township home and working at a Rookwood Commons restaurant.
COVID-19 impacted everyone in the Thomas household differently – his wife Paulette was sick for one day; his son Jerry showed no symptoms. Thomas suffered from a fever, "splitting headache" and brain fog "like a hatchet was stuck in my head." He was consumed with lethargy, apathy and depression. He didn't want to watch Netflix or read Facebook.
"You could offer to fly me anywhere on the planet, and nothing appealed to me," says Thomas, a 1983 Oak Hills High School graduate and 1990 University of Cincinnati Law School graduate. He worked 17 years as an attorney before succeeding his father, Jerry Thomas, on WKRC-AM in 2007.
Thomas was more at risk due to medicine he's been taking for 2-1/2 years for low-spectrum lymphoma, which compromises his immune system. He didn't require hospitalization.
"I'd have a couple of days in which I 'd feel pretty good, and the third day I'd feel like I had the wind knocked out of my sails and I couldn't manage more than sleep. It was a real roller coaster ride."
Thomas returned to the airwaves Monday, Dec. 21, for one day. "It was a mistake. I looked like death warmed over. I was a wreck," he says. His producer called Kevin Gordon, who subbed for Thomas often in December, to come in the next day. Gary Jeff Walker also filled in for Thomas.
"I've never experienced anything like this in my entire work life. I never took more than two sick days off when I was working at a law firm. You'd still go in if you had a bad cold or the flu. This was very unsettling."
In early December, he posted several updates on Facebook, and then unplugged before Christmas. He didn't want to sound too optimistic or too pessimistic.
"The nicest people would text you … and I didn't have the energy, ability or desire to go back on the air. It was humbling. You appreciate how many people are listening in to you. And you count your blessings," he says.
With the virus spreading in their house Thanksgiving week, he canceled the family gathering and did a food exchange with his parents. They did a socially distanced COVID Christmas gathering after Thomas was assured by his doctor that he no longer was contagious.
Before Thanksgiving, the outspoken libertarian let friends post on his Facebook page video from the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation police raid on the Griswold's party with the caption, "When you have more than 10 people over this Thanksgiving" on Nov. 17, and a picture of Gov. Mike DeWine peeping through a window with the caption "Coming to a Thanksgiving near you" on Nov. 15.
Has his six-week experience changed his views about governors' lockdown orders in an attempt to limit spread of the virus?
"Nah," he says instantly. "Honestly, no. I can't find any legal authority for all these lockdowns." He says that business shutdowns should be challenged "on constitutional grounds."