“It’s no joke.”
“It can kill you.”
“Of all the things I’ve been through, this is the closest I have ever felt to death.”
These are the words of a friend who shared with me her personal battle with COVID. She was taken aback when she got the virus, and how she got it.
It is not that my friend was oblivious to the risks and consequences of the COVID virus. She followed the news watching the ever increasing numbers of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
It is just that she felt removed from it all because she lives in a rural area without close neighbors. Her visitors are rare, just occasional holiday dinner guests.
On the few occasions she did dine out (weeks before contracting the virus) it was during the restaurant’s off hours and with restricted seating.
When she would learn of someone who had COVID, it was never anyone she knew. That distant “someone” might have been the son of a neighbor’s manicurist’s friend.
She never had the flu, never needed a flu shot.
So how did my friend, who considered herself very COVID conscious, contract the virus that almost sent her to her grave? She wore a mask. She social distanced. She hardly went anywhere.
But her husband did. Not that he worked in a notorious meat processing plant or attended large social gatherings. But he made “social contact” every day making service repairs to households in their community. Not all of these “social contacts” wore masks, social distanced or kept their work areas sanitized.
Shortly after the first of the year her husband got the COVID virus but was symptomless when he visited – and infected – his 91-year-old father. Three days later hubby developed symptoms and tested positive for COVID.
Soon my friend developed flu-like symptoms, COVID and the flu can share similar symptoms, but she soon found that “COVID is in a category all its own.”
Her worst symptoms were severe shortness of breath and muscle weakness which landed her in the ER where she was diagnosed. She could not breathe deeply; only taking small breaths, like running a marathon when “you keep breathing but can’t get air”.
She slept 16–18 hours a day and lost all sense of time. When awake she was constantly throwing up the liquids she tried to hold down.
Life was a struggle. Even the most mundane functions became chores. Brushing her teeth would wipe her out for hours.
Most concerning was her inability to use her legs. Getting upstairs was a dilemma that left her two choices; crawl, or sit on her bottom and push herself up with her hands to the next step. She eventually built up the strength to “walk” up the stairs, one foot up then lifting the other beside it.
It took two months for her to walk normally up stairs. Although it leaves her winded, she “does not stop until the top” to build up her strength.
With legs so weak, getting into a car meant sitting on the vehicle seat and picking up each leg to lift it into place. “Thank goodness my arms were not weak or I don’t know how I would have managed.”
Two months later she is still feeling the impact of the COVID infection…
If she has a choice between using steps or a ramp she chooses the ramp as her legs are still unstable and she is afraid of falling.
She still has not fully regained her senses of taste and smell, but they are slowly coming back.
She feels her breath is finally back to normal.
“It changes who you are as a person,” she commented. “How you view everything and everybody. What is important. What is not. You are not as judgmental. It is a very humbling experience.”
So why has she shared her story with me?
Certainly not for pity, or recognition (she remains anonymous).
Perhaps it is more to save lives. (Ironically, both her 91 year old father-in-law and her husband, who is significantly older than her, had only mild COVID symptoms.)
And yet there are some who don’t want to hear about her near death COVID experience; they change the subject or turn away.
Fortunately, her doctors want the information to share the testimony of a COVID survivor who at one time during her experience didn’t think she would be a survivor, with their patients. They want to override the hearsay, myths and misinformation about contracting COVID, and how important it is that everyone takes proven precautions to prevent infection.
A key purpose of a testimony is to learn from the person’s experience and heed their advice which can be life saving.
My friend’s advice?
“Get the vaccine. Wear a mask. Social distance and avoid large gatherings. We need to do all we can to keep from getting it (COVID)”
Chris Smith of Muncy was a prevention education/highway safety specialist for over 35 years and is a member of Let’s End COVID