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Niwot track coach, wife among those fighting COVID-19 illness

Maurice Henriques tells his story

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Given the fact that his wife Christina is a nurse combating COVID-19 on the front lines at Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Maurice Henriques was mentally prepared to contract the new coronavirus.

The Niwot track and field coach considered it inevitable, actually. So when he and his wife both tested positive earlier this week, Henriques wasn’t surprised. But as Henriques began to tell friends, co-workers and family, many of them were.

Maurice Henriques

To most of these people who have anxiously followed the news and seen the number of cases rise, Henriques is the first real person they knew to now be battling COVID-19, and putting a familiar face to a global pandemic was a staggering reality check. Henriques just wants everyone to know that he and his family are doing fine, and that they hope everyone they know will remain healthy and safe.

“It’s real and it’s out there,” Henriques said. “You can be overcautious and wear a mask and you still can get it. People are curious about it and it’s OK to talk about it. For me, once I found out for sure I had it, the fear factor kind of went away because at least I knew. But it goes to show you that this is pretty serious. My wife and I just want to be encouraging to people and let them know that it affects everybody differently.

“But we need to be careful and work on this together.”

Henriques, 46, was likely only able to get tested through his insurance provider because his wife, 44, is a nurse and his 75-year-old mother is living with them, albeit isolated in a separate part of the house. It was a physically unpleasant experience, but he feels lucky to get one of these scarce tests with them being in short supply.

Fully aware that many have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19, Henriques is also thankful his symptoms aren’t as severe as some others have reported. Of course, battling even a mild case is no walk in the park, either. Chest pain, fatigue, fever and a handful of other ailments now dominate Henriques’ daily routine.

“It feels like two-a-days just walking around the house,” Henriques, who played football at the University of Colorado from 1992-96, said. “I go outside to turn on the sprinklers and felt like I had to go lay down. Four days ago, I ran six miles and felt like a champ.”

Under Henriques’ leadership, the Niwot track and field team swept the boys and girls Class 4A team championships for the first time ever at last year’s state meet. It was the Cougars’ first boys title and the fourth for the girls team in the last seven seasons. When Henriques called Niwot athletic director Joe Brown this week, Brown assumed it was to discuss preparedness for an eventual return to activities, something they talk about often.

The conversation’s actual subject matter was unexpected.

“For so much of this, I hadn’t known anyone who had actually tested positive,” Brown said. “It really brings it into perspective. Like everything, when it starts affecting you or someone you know, it really brings it to the forefront. It really puts it into perspective just how much people have been impacted and we just hope coach Mo and his wife feel better soon and can get back to running.”

Henriques and his wife are self-quarantining at home and taking round-the-clock care of one another. Those rare and strange circumstances have given the Henriques family a unique opportunity to ponder social responsibility and think about what comes next.

“My wife and I have already talked about donating our plasma after it’s over to hopefully try to help in other people’s recovery,” Henriques said. “Whatever helps, that’s what we’ll do.”