Recovering From and Moving Forward after COVID-19Courtney L. explains what is was like when her family of five contracted the potentially deadly disease, and what they are doing now to help others.
As a family in New Jersey, we have been at the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, we found out first-hand that you can do everything right and you can still get infected. Our family followed all the rules and somehow, all five of us tested positive, got sick and struggled to recover from COVID-19.
Coming Down with COVID-19
About a week before our kids’ schools shut down, my husband had begun to stock-up on supplies. It was obvious to us that this was becoming a nationwide crisis, so we wanted to be prepared to shelter-in-place. That next week, with our kids officially home, we began to enforce a complete quarantine, one that we have continued to maintain through the pandemic.
Despite our commitment to sanitation, cleanliness and home isolation, my husband began to experience symptoms. He developed severe fatigue, fever, whole body aches, mental cloudiness and a loss of smell. His oxygen levels were a constant concern, dropping into the 80s at times. A healthy adult normally has 95-100 percent oxygen with 90 being considered low, so 80 was very alarming. Because of this, his doctors sent him home from the emergency room with a portable oxygen machine. Luckily, we never had to use it.
Though we tried to keep him as isolated as possible, five days into caring for him, I couldn’t get out of bed either. It started with a simple cough and an overall fogginess. My confusion was accompanied by a low-grade fever. As the fever got worse, so did my symptoms. My skin began to burn, like I had a sunburn. Eventually it became so uncomfortable that anything that touched my skin was terribly painful. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t move. Daytime was better but we spent most of it sleeping, waking up around 5 p.m. when the symptoms would strengthen and the discomfort became unbearable.
My fever reached 103 degrees and I began having stabbing chest pains. Fearful of further complications, I went to the hospital where they ran a number of tests, including a chest X-ray. But with inconclusive results, they gave me some medication and sent me home. Just when it felt like I would never return to normal, my fever broke.
The 16 days I was sick with COVID-19 were some of the most uncomfortable of my life. My husband had it worse, suffering for over three weeks before his symptoms began to subside. We both thought we were getting better twice, only to have symptoms intensify again.
Just when the two of use began to come back to life, our oldest came down with a cough. My middle son soon developed a high fever and symptoms similar to the stomach flu. And, as they began to recover, our youngest daughter developed a fever and pink eye. Luckily, because our children were healthy with no other medical conditions, they bounced back quickly.
Life After Recovery
Now, three weeks recovered and finally feeling back to normal, we are doing everything we can to help others. We enrolled and were accepted into the Columbia University Plasma Trial. Every person who donates plasma can help save four sick patients. We are also relieved to have the antibody so that we can care for both sets of our parents if they get sick—though as you have heard on the news, we don’t know how long those antibodies will last or if that protects us from a second round of infections. Additionally, we are continuing to monitor our health and bodies to ensure we don’t have any long-term health effects.
Though we are through the physical sickness, the anxiety persists. One thing we were unprepared for was the negative way people would treat us if they found out we had been ill. COVID-19 dominates the news and continues to keep the scare of infection front of mind, creating a stigma against those who have been unlucky enough to fight it. If we don’t tell people that we have been tested for antibodies, people treat us like we have a plague. They don’t talk to us and stay way further away than the six-foot rule. It is a frustrating feeling.
This is a very weird and unprecedented time for the world. We need to continue to support each other in any way we can and remember that we are all dealing with physical and mental stressors. The more we can support one another and work through our feelings of isolation and anxiety together, the better we will be equipped to prepare for opening-up our communities safely.
Blog last updated: May 22, 2020