TOWSON, Md. — "I woke up and my stomach felt a little crazy. I texted my staff and I said, 'You guys, I think I’m going to miss shoot around.'"
On the morning of January 5, 2021, Towson Head Women’s Basketball Coach Diane Richardson felt her body shutting down.
"Within 20 minutes, everything, I had a 102 degree fever, I couldn’t really pick myself up. It just went down physically just went downhill from that."
Soon after, she got the call from the team trainer. The 62-year-old was COVID-19 positive.
"And I said, 'No. How?' I was the only one on the entire team that tested positive and I’ve been probably the most careful of anybody,"
She’s been careful because of her 35-year-old daughter, Dana, who lives with her. Dana is low-functioning autistic.
"She is high risk. I went out, I had a special mask that was made for my face and all that. I wore gloves and never touched anything. So, I’ve been very, very careful."
Dana never contracted the virus. The rest of the family did - Coach’s 30-and-23-year-old sons, who had moved home for safety, and her 63-year-old husband, who almost didn’t make it.
"At one point he stopped breathing. My husband snores and so, he wasn’t snoring and I kind of looked at him and I said, 'Larry? Larry?' and nothing. I touched his body and he wasn’t moving up and down. I just started crying and was like, ‘No! No! No!’ and just beating on his chest. And then he just [took a gasp of air]."
She thought the same or worse would happen to her.
"I couldn’t even pick my head up. I couldn’t move my body," she described. "Just laying there for hours and hours and hours. I thought this is just taking everything out of my body. I had no strength. None at all. I thought this may be it."
For almost a month Richardson and her husband quarantined together, motivating each other to keep fighting.
"We just kept saying, 'Okay let’s take a couple steps. Let’s take a couple steps.' And just holding each other up. Then we’d collapse back on the couch or collapse in the bed."
Coach Rich went public with her family’s health struggles the night before the presidential inauguration, while watching the 400 lights illuminating the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in tribute to the over 400,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States. She sent this tweet:
My husband and I are fighting Covid-19. When I saw the lights on the National Mall, I immediately got out of my bed. I don’t want to be a light. I want to be here in the present for my children, spouse,my mother, my family & friends and 4 my team. #fighting4life— Coach Rich (@CoachDianeRich) January 20, 2021
Thankfully, Coach Richardson and her family recovered. She still deals with lingering fatigue and headaches. Last week she was ready to get back to her team after 3-and-a-half weeks away. She surprised them at practice.
"I felt like I was in a dream. Like, 'Whoa. Coach Rich is actually back'. It felt like our team was complete again," said Towson forward Shavonne Smith.
"It was just a good feeling," said Richardson. "I said, 'I’m back and I’m back for good.'"
The leader of her team. The matriarch of her family. Reinvigorated. Strong. And with a new perspective.
"I tell you, you never know what you have until you could potentially lose it," she said. "I’m concerned about my health now and being healthy and being here for my children and being here for my team and just giving all that I have. I’m just here to give all that I have while I’m here."
Richardson returns to the sidelines on Saturday when the Tigers host College of Charleston.