I’m 36 and I’ve been a registered nurse and the director of a surgi-center in Beverly Hills for about six years. When the pandemic hit in 2020, we had to make a lot of changes in the way we did our business to keep everyone
safe, especially infection control procedures in cleaning and everyone wearing masks. Also, we restricted who could come into the clinic, so patients couldn’t bring family members with them anymore. We were trying to protect patients, their family members, and us, the clinic staff.
We were being tested for COVID-19 weekly. On July 9, 2020 I remember feeling just a little “off” like I had low blood sugar. I watched my rapid test result change from initial negative to positive, so I told my boss. We followed up right away with the nasal swab test. In fact,
that came back positive too. I was sent home to quarantine myself. Even though I wore an N-95 mask at work every day and we did contact tracing in the following days, we weren’t able to determine exactly how I caught it.
Early Symptoms of Illness
At first, I felt okay, mostly tired. Then the next day I woke up with a fever that lasted for a couple of days. Next came a cough. After this, I remember feeling a heaviness in my chest. I was taking over-the-counter medications for my cough. Then my doctor prescribed an albuterol inhaler to help with my breathing. I started proning (lying on my stomach) to help relieve the lung congestion. But one morning I woke up and I was so tired I told my husband I needed to go to the hospital. He reminded me that he would not be able to accompany me inside, but I knew something was really wrong. Frankly, I thought I was going to pass out. I don’t even remember how I got to the car.
Getting to the Hospital
When we got to the ER, my oxygen saturation level was at 74% of normal. They asked me if I was a smoker because I was having such a hard time breathing. Not me, never. They started me on antibiotics and vitamins and they took me to the ICU where they put me on high-flow oxygen. What I remember most about being there was that it was intimidating, even though I’m a nurse. I would see the tubes there at my bedside and wondered if I would need to be intubated, and if so, would I ever go home again?
What if I never got to see my daughters again? They were so young and both had birthdays turning 3 and 5 while I remained hospitalized.
While sick I felt hot, I had lost my appetite and I was suffering from anxiety. It was really hard not being able to have any visitors. Thankfully, the ICU nurses were wonderfully caring. They ordered me food all the time in hoping I would eat. But when they were not successful, they immediately requested I take liquid nutrition, like Ensure. Those nurses came into my room and talked to me trying to reassure me that I would be okay and I would soon be with my family. This was a silver lining since I ended up spending three weeks in the ICU because my oxygen level continued to be dangerously low. Finally, they also gave me a plasma transfusion, that restored some of my appetite and energy. After that, I started to believe I was going to pull through.
Getting Back Home
My husband Saul also tested positive for COVID-19, about two weeks after I got sick. Fortunately, he had a much milder case, just fever, chills, body aches, and a cough. It was nothing you’d want, but he could get through it. Best of all, he was well enough to be able to take care of me when they discharged me from the hospital.
The two of us quarantined in the back part of our house. Our kids stayed in the front part with my mom,away from us. I was still incredibly weak. I had a nasal cannula to give me additional oxygen. I needed help to get up from bed, walk to the bathroom, take a shower, and use the bathroom. I could only take a few steps and my oxygen level would drop into the low 80s. Saul basically had to help me with everything until I regained my strength. Finally, after four months, I got clearance from the pulmonologist to return to work. Even then, I noticed that when I bent down, walked, or even when I got up from a chair that I would get out-of-breath.
Luckily, because I’m on the front lines of health care, I got the COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021, at a vaccination clinic at the Los Angeles Fire Department. I did have some pain in my arm, a headache and chills the next day after my first shot. But as a nurse, I know that was just my immune system doing what it’s supposed to do, you know, giving a good strong response to the vaccine. And without reservation, I would gladly trade those symptoms for that three weeks in the ICU I had when I had COVID-19 disease!
My Message About COVID-19 and the COVID-19 Vaccine
I’m sharing my story because I want everyone to know how seriously ill COVD-19 made me, a healthy nurse and mom at age 36. It’s so contagious and the fact that my mom was just in another room during my home recovery was stressful too. Now that we have the COVID-19 vaccine I hope everyone will get vaccinated as soon as it’s available. Thank goodness my story has a happy ending. Too many people who end up in the ICU with COVID-19 don’t go home.
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