By Audrey Goldberg
Through the quarantine, two adults I know experienced catching the dreaded Coronavirus. I chose to interview them to share their first-hand thoughts and feelings while recovering.
The first interview subject, who prefers to remain anonymous, was exposed to the Coronavirus on March 16th and got the test results back on March 19th. His symptoms, such as extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, and stomach aches, are very common for COVID-19 patients.
At the time of his diagnosis, the government did not suggest wearing masks or social distancing; however, the official lockdown was announced a few days into his quarantine. His full recovery process stretched an entire month, but today, six months later, he continues to feel weak and tired mildly.
The first few days of self isolation were reported to be the worst relative to the rest of the process. He did not have the muscle strength to lift his head. It felt like being tied to a bed with no movement ability. He then lost his sense of smell and taste, a symptom which occurs in 98% of COVID-19 patients.
Simultaneously, there weren’t enough COVID-19 tests for the public as there are today; because the subject works in healthcare and is an eye doctor, he was fortunate enough to obtain a test. I asked him if the test was truly as bad as people have generally made it seem. He explained, “Yes, it is as bad. It felt like they were poking my brain. It was very uncomfortable, and just when you think you’re done, the nurse says it’s time for the other nostril.”
He isolated in one room in his house as directed. His wife left meals outside his door (although he didn’t have an appetite). He lost a significant amount of weight during this period and only ate because he had too. He tried over-the-counter treatments such as vitamin water to regain electrolytes.
He didn’t have the energy to watch television or to talk to anybody over the phone. Many friends and family members messaged him daily to wish him a speedy recovery. His wife and children were scared because the news had started announcing widespread deaths due to the virus. No one, not even his doctors, knew what to expect, as there wasn’t sufficient knowledge about the virus widely available yet.
For the following two weeks, he tried to regain his strength, but this was incredibly hard to do as his symptoms were not subsiding. Luckily, his senses of smell and taste returned.
He didn’t step foot in his office until three months later.
This interview subject wants to stress that he didn’t get the virus from not being careful. It was simply bad luck that he happened to get it at the beginning of the pandemic.
After recovery, he took more precautions than ever and was understandably quite paranoid after having to endure it once. He recommends to everyone: “If you think you were exposed, get a COVID-19 test between four and seven days after because the test may not pick the virus up if it is early on. You should absolutely take it upon yourself to quarantine for two weeks.” This sickness was one of the worst he had experienced in a long time.
The second person I chose to interview started having symptoms on Friday, March 27th. That morning, she woke up with severe shooting pains and a headache behind her eyes. She had a gut feeling it was COVID-19 because her husband, who works in environmental services at a local hospital, had come home with a sore throat, cough, and mild fever (all symptoms of COVID-19). Since he works at the hospital around infected patients, he figured without being tested, he had Coronavirus. Not only did she and her husband contract the illness, but so did her daughter. The interview subject expressed that her daughter was lucky to be asymptomatic, but still had to get tested and follow the procedure of self-isolation for two weeks.
On the second and third day of coping with these symptoms, the subject woke up with a fever and cough. She felt exhausted and weak, but these symptoms did not compare to the worst of them. She had a call with her doctor who advised her to also self-isolate, as there were not enough COVID-19 tests available. Her doctors told her she most likely had COVID-19 and was prescribed a Z-Pack medication, an antibiotic to treat infections, to help relieve her symptoms. She also took 1,000 milligrams of Tylenol every 24 hours. To be told by a medical professional that you have the Coronavirus was very frightening. She felt scared by this unknown sickness, as it became more prevalent in America. As with the first interviewee, there was not a large amount of data and information about COVID-19, as it was just beginning to rapidly infect people around the world.
The next morning, on the fourth day, she woke up in a sweat and her fevers continued. It felt like a second wave had hit. Her body was aching, and she had extreme fatigue. She called her doctor, who noticed she was short of breath. This was a symptom the subject had not herself observed. She was told that if she could not blow out a candle, that she should go to the emergency room right away. At first she did not want to go to the hospital because she wanted another day of resting and taking medicine, even though she knew she had COVID-19. Her doctor agreed, but they made another appointment for a virtual visit later that week.
Unfortunately, her symptoms soon worsened and she began to have chest pain and pressure in her back. During her second virtual visit, her doctor said “you don’t look good, you don’t sound good. Seriously, if you can’t blow out a candle, I really advise you to go to the hospital.” She again asked for another day’s rest at home. She wanted another chance to rest and possibly recover before opting to go to the hospital.
Her symptoms persisted and worsened. On Saturday, April 4th, she reluctantly agreed to go to the hospital. The morning had started out with her waking up drenched in sweat. She went to the bathroom to take a nice hot shower, thinking the steam would open her lungs and relieve her chest pain. She soon realized she couldn’t exhale easily and she started to panic. She called her husband who in turn called the hospital to make sure there was room for her there. He drove her right up to the crosswalk. Her body was in so much pain that it took her five minutes to cross the street. A security guard assisted and got her a wheelchair. They took her blood pressure, oxygen level, and heart rate– all were abnormally low. She was having an incredibly difficult time breathing.
She expressed that her experience in the hospital was awful. She was hooked up to oxygen and constantly getting X-rays. She was also diagnosed with pneumonia. Her lungs were in terrible condition. Notably, before her illness, she regularly ran long distances to be in good shape.
The doctors didn’t exactly know how to treat her. For example, they wanted to lower her oxygen level to see how her body would react. The amount they were giving her was significantly high, but when they lowered it, she would pass out. They tried multiple times a day and, at this point, many nurses and doctors were working on her case. After a week of this torturous experience passed, she started to feel better by the day. She regained an appetite, and her smell and taste returned. Her body was still in poor condition though. She still had low oxygen and blood pressure levels. It wasn’t until the following week that she could return home.
I’m extremely glad my family friends have recovered and are now happy and healthy. Thankfully, they are able to be back with their loved ones. A take away from these real-life experiences is that the Coronavirus can affect people’s health in different ways. However, even after the lockdown, it’s best to take precautions when returning to a semi-normal lifestyle. These people got sick at about the same time, yet their body’s responses were very different. While they experienced the same symptoms, the extent to which it affected them varied. As stated above, the second subject is a runner who exercises on a regular basis, yet she ended up in the hospital. It’s unfortunate that people became very sick before the guidelines to wear masks and social distance were released. It’s not anyone’s fault because no one understood the potential threat this virus could bring to America. This was the time where people could not have predicted the government would enforce a lockdown shortly after.