COVID-19 victim talks about illness

    Three Rivers Publishing reached out to one of the Crawford County positive COVID-19 cases, after hearing the person had spoken of their experience to a community group. The person, officially “Crawford County Health Department Case #4” agreed to tell their story “not for wanting to be in the paper,” but “as a resource to help others understand that this is real, whether it has hit our area or not.”

    Case #4 said it was important to note the virus affects people differently, but was adamant it is not like the flu, as some have claimed. Case #4 fell ill in late March, and it is believed was infected through person-to-person contact.
    Their symptoms were not like that of the other person of contact. They initially had lower back pain, and believing it was a urinary tract or kidney infection were put on antibiotics. After not improving, a urine culture test was performed and their doctor switched antibiotics, but there was still no improvement and they still had pain. Tests returned negative for any bacterial infection.
    Case #4 said, “I did not have the cough, headaches, or difficulty breathing—the CDC symptoms.” Their symptoms included a very high fever (up to 102.6 degrees), severe diarrhea, severe lower back pain, muscle cramps, severe fatigue (even with simple activities such as moving from a chair to a couch or to the kitchen or bathroom), breathlessness, red bloodshot eyes, skin issues (sores and big, red blotchy patches on the scalp), loss of the senses of taste and smell. After the fever broke, it was “a temperature roller coaster” for weeks.
    When Case #4 first sought medical care in late March, the person they’d been in contact with had been tested but results didn’t come back for two weeks, as it was in the beginning of the testing process for the disease, and the first drive-through test site had just been opened in Chesterfield. Through contact-tracing, the Crawford County case was called on April 6 and told they should be tested since the other person’s results had returned positive.
     Case #4 was tested on April 6 through doctor referral at the Phelps County Regional Hospital drive through. They reported, “The procedure was pretty effortless. To drive up to the drive-through station was incredible. They had erected a really nice site in such a short amount of time. It was odd though, (like) something we see in the movies. (I) had to drive up to the stop, honk the horn, someone came out of the building in this hazmat suit and face-shield mask, gloves, etc.”
    Medical staff swabbed first for flu and strep, then when those test swabs came back negative, they had permission from the state to test for COVID-19. Case #4 said, “The medical staff was great. (They were) very professional, explained step by step what was going to take place. The swab was a complete nasopharyngeal to reach the nasopharynx. The medical staff were very kind.”
    Following the test, Case #4 was told to stay at home until contacted with the results. Those came in in less than 24 hours, and they were notified on April 7 that they had tested positive for COVID-19. The state called first and instructed the case to eat foods high in protein, iron, and to drink lots of room temperature water. Case #4 was also called by their physician’s office and the Crawford County Health Department (CCHD).
    Case #4 was told to remain in isolation, and their spouse was quarantined for 14 days. They were told not to leave their home or go anywhere in public, and if they did, they could be charged with a misdemeanor for endangerment to public health.
    The CCHD called Case #4 daily, even on weekends—and on Easter—to check in on their symptoms, asking about those that were the same, anything new, and temperature readings, which the case had to record in the morning and in the evening.
    Case #4 described the illness as “horrible, all I did was sleep away March and April.” They had “pain in muscles, eye pressure, skin irritations, no appetite.” Case #4 was ill from late March until the beginning of May, but never hospitalized. They didn’t have any of the respiratory issues often associated with the illness.
    They noted, “I ran past my quarantine date of April 21 because of my temperatures running at 99.8 degrees and 99.9 degrees for so many days during my quarantine time.” As a result, the state health department told the county health department not to release them on April 21 because of the continual days of low-grade fever. It took some time before Case #4 could get to the benchmark of 72 hours fever-free without fever-reducing medications. Since Case #4’s quarantine was extended, their spouse was also quarantined for another 14 days (to total 28).
    During this time, Case #4 said they “slept a lot, celebrated Easter in the woods then slept for several hours, family and friends dropped meals off at the carport, enjoyed the quiet time, the spring season of new birth, enjoyed no scheduling pressures. (I) would purge stuff from the closets and then rest. Enjoyed just having time with my spouse having good conversations. Watched the news, read the academic reports on the virus to understand it.”
    Case #4 was released from isolation on April 27, but noted, “I often wondered how they knew we were well. I, for one, am still to this day (June 6) having these waves of fatigue, temperature spikes, still little-to-no appetite, no smell, (but) a bit of taste has come back.” They still have skin issues and become breathless easily. Their physician sent them for another test on May 26 and it returned negative. They are to monitor the post-virus lingering symptoms. “It is weird, after (the) isolation/quarantining time of 14 days, and fever-free without fever-reducing meds for 72 hours, suddenly, you are good to go.”
    When asked if they had support for physical, mental, and emotional needs during their illness, Case #4 replied, “Yes, pretty much. The calls from the health department staff calling each day, and my physician’s nurse calling every other day. (I) talked with my pastor a few times. My cousin-in-law in Austria that also had COVID-19—we were able to share and fill each other in on what was happening on that side of the world. My family member that was home also suffering with it much differently than I was and supporting each other. (I) connected with an online support group to find out about these lingerings. Thought it was just me. It isn’t, and it is not because I'm older. It is happening to people all over the world and large numbers of every age and even those that weren't hospitalized.”
    When asked if they have “fully recovered” yet, Case #4 replied, “I do not know! Still no smell and very little taste or appetite. They cannot tell us why we have these post-virus lingerings. It is typical to feel drained after the flu or pneumonia, but this is different. The waves that hit like a brick wall and then (I’m) just out of commission for 24 to 48 hours. (I) wake up great one morning (but at) anytime through the day, you get wiped out, never knowing when it will hit. No warning signs.” Case #4 has been trying to pay attention to signals from their body that show there will be issues—for them, at this point, it begins with pressure in the eyes, then sweating, and then a temperature spike.
    During their illness, Case #4 was contacted on April 24 by Phelps Health and asked if they would give blood for training on the new antibody equipment they were receiving. There weren’t many cases in this region, so they needed blood to learn to test. Case #4 and two others participated, and they noted “I was very happy to help.” Also, as a result of the negative test results on May 26, Case #4 can now provide “convalescent plasma.”
    Case #4 said they believe our state was doing a great job on all of this and getting information out. “I also want to thank those within the Crawford County Health Department for their commitment to make this work be correct and have integrity for the betterment and the safety of all,” they said. They also sent “a shout out to all the staff I talked with for their genuine care. Along with all the seriousness of this, we found humor in getting through this.”