HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — David and Rachel Mangan were among the first to contract COVID-19 in Arkansas.
Not only did the couple survive and recover from the virus, but in a whirlwind trip to Washington D.C., they met and shared their experience with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“It was very surreal. It’s what you see on the news all the time and you kind of have to remind yourself you’re actually watching it live,” said Rachel Mangan.
After a ski trip to Colorado in early March, they returned home to Hot Springs, and in a few days, began feeling sick.
“It was a very strong headache and I don’t get headaches very often. It was pretty debilitating,” Rachel explained. “And then later in the afternoon, a low grade fever — 100.4 or .5 — nothing major, but a lot of aches and chills.”
Rachel thought for sure it was the flu, but her flu test came back negative. Her doctor then tested both Rachel and her husband for COVID-19 even though his symptoms were very mild.
“We were number 13 and 14. There just weren’t cases, and so even people would joke, ‘Oh, maybe you have the COVID,” she said.
As it turns out, they did have it. Early on, David reached out to the state health secretary, Dr. Nate Smith.
Little did they know that weeks later, Dr. Smith would reach out with a request — “Would you be willing to serve on a panel of survivors and go to Washington D.C. to meet with Vice President Pence?”
On Monday, the couple flew to D.C. thinking they were meeting with the Vice President.
“They tested us and took our temperature, did all of that and started briefing us on what the day would look like and just casually interjected we would go over to the west wing and be in the cabinet room with the President,” Rachel said.
President Trump asked the two how long it took to get over the virus. Rachel and David told him it took over a month.
“He’s right there and Vice President Pence was in there as well. They were both just sitting right across the table from us. Everyone was so gracious and it was just very fascinating,” Rachel said.
President Trump even joked with Rachel to stay away from him when she told him she felt 85% better as opposed to 100%.
The Mangan’s were there with three people from California and three people from Michigan. Rachel said she still can’t believe it, but she’s glad she went — to share a bit of hope during this time that will no doubt go down in history.
“Just to give hope and not live in fear, but also if everybody will really do their part right now, we can get through it sooner,” Rachel added.
The Mangan’s said the White House flew them to D.C. on commercial airline; they returned home late Wednesday night. They said it was eerie flying, with no one in airports or on flights.
Something else they shared with the President is that the virus is invisible. They didn’t know they had it initially, and innocently spent time around friends, inadvertently spreading the infection — driving home why it’s so important we continue to remain socially distant.