SOUTHINGTON — The family of popular photographer Art Rich is asking the community to keep the 73-year-old in their thoughts as he battles COVID-19.
Rich was in critical but stable condition Friday after asking to go to the hospital Sunday morning. He is heavily sedated and on a ventilator at MidState Medical Center, his daughter Angel Rich said Friday. He can’t have visitors and the family is unable to gather to support each other because members are either infected or awaiting test results.
“We’re devastated,” Angel Rich said. “He’s still in the same condition. He’s up he’s down. But everyday you’re on life support, it becomes more difficult because the ventilator does all the work.”
Rich is normally healthy and active, his daughter said. But his condition began to deteriorate after a lunch with friends in early March. The friends had been in contact with someone who had recently returned from Italy where public health officials reported Friday COVID-19 had claimed 14,681 lives. The lunch friends were tested for COVID-19 but showed no symptoms of the virus and were waiting for results. They later notified Rich they had tested positive. By March 13, he was showing symptoms.
“By then it was too late,” Angel Rich said. “He had the cough, the aches and pains.”
Rich’s doctor initially didn’t recommend him for testing because he had no fever. Eventually, he prescribed a test for a drive-through center in Farmington and the results came back inconclusive seven days later.
Rich lost his sense of smell and taste and stopped eating for several days and experienced shortness of breath while doing yard work. By Sunday, he asked to go to a hospital and was rushed to Bradley Hospital in Southington. After presenting severe respiratory symptoms, he was rushed to MidState, where he became disoriented, was sedated and immediately put on a ventilator.
“That was without a fever,” Angel Rich said. “Maybe 100 for one or two days. It happened so quick.”
Rich’s wife, Jan Rich has tested positive for COVID-19, but is asymptomatic. Other family members, including an infant living in the home, have also been tested. Angel Rich and other siblings are isolated from each other and make phone contact with hospital staff for regular updates on their father’s condition.
“No one can see him,” Angel Rich said. “God forbid we can’t be with each other to support each other. We can’t be around each other. We don’t get to say goodbye.”
Angel Rich and her siblings Tiffany, Gina and Jason Rich are hopeful their father is going to improve. But if he doesn’t make it, they know they can’t even have a wake or funeral, she said. The last time DellaVecchia Funeral Home was closed for a wake it was her for her grandfather Dominic Rich during the blizzard of 1978, she said.
More testing needed
Her father’s story points to the need for people to take the virus seriously and take precautions. It also showcases that while some people may have mild to no symptoms, others can have sudden deadly consequences. She added that doctors can’t afford to use a fever as a screening tool, and testing should be conducted more often, with quicker results.
Art Secondo, a former Southington town councilor and former Chamber of Commerce president, has known Art Rich and his family for 50 years.
“I guess we don’t really feel this until it happens to someone you know,” Secondo said. “He’s a landmark photographer...very creative. He’s done a lot of favors for people. He’s a good man and we all wish him well.”
Rich’s family is touched by the outpouring of support they have received and has asked people to share and tag their Art Rich photos taken over the years on Facebook.
“It’s overwhelming,” Angel Rich said. “We got 600 and something shares. I never thought in a million years, this many people would be reaching out. I just wish my dad knew how much support he’s getting. The digital change was hard on his business. If he could see the love he’s getting right now, he’d be in awe.”
Art Rich is a lifelong Southington resident who began taking pictures while serving in the U.S. Army. He was noted for his work and started his career in photography as a freelancer. He saved enough money to leave his garage studio and opened at 500 N. Main St. where he shot portraits and processed wedding, school and event photos for thousands in the community.
“He is an amazing man who built his career from nothing,” Angel Rich said. “My dad is no typical 73 year old. He is young at heart, is overall healthy and lives life to the fullest. We are holding out hope for our dad.”