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Lori D., ME

I am a 61-year-old disabled woman living alone in a second-floor apartment. I have several pre-existing health conditions including high blood pressure, sleep apnea, obesity and diabetes. These things mean I am high risk and so I'd been working with a dietician on weight loss. I had initially been against getting vaccinated. That changed however as COVID-19 began infecting more people, causing deaths to skyrocket and I wanted to be able to protect my elderly mom who I see fairly often. She only has one lung due to cancer. Ironically, she got COVID shortly before I did and had very mild symptoms. I was so grateful for that! She lives about 90 minutes away.

I started feeling like I had a cold coming on the day after Christmas in December 2021. Runny nose, cough, low grade fever. I wasn't overly concerned because I had finally gotten my first COVID vaccine several months before and would soon be due for the second. Plus, I'd worn my masks on my limited trips to the grocery store, sanitized like crazy and washed my hands and clothing after going out. On New Year’s Eve I felt worse.

I called my PCP early and she sent me to the emergency room to be tested. My friend went with me because he lives across the hall and had spent time with me and he also that day began feeling poorly. I was told I'd get a call in three days. By Monday January 3, 2022 I was sick in bed for the most part. I got the call saying I was positive for COVID. I have anxiety but I wasn't too alarmed at that point. I felt bad but I mistakenly believed it would be like a nasty cold or flu in my case because "my breathing seems okay to me." WRONG!

It seemed each day a symptom worsened, or a new symptom began. I had been making myself get up at least every few hours to drink fluids (refill the glass by my bedside or get a fresh bottle of water), take Tylenol, walk around my apartment a few times hoping to prevent pneumonia or blood clots and use the restroom. However, I began to rapidly get weaker and where I could once do several things while up, I soon could only manage to get to the restroom and then get water.

Fortunately, my apartment is not big, perhaps 750 sq ft. My friend/neighbor kindly came over (in full protective gear) to check on me several times a day. He had a milder case. He is 15 years younger than I, and it was very kind of him to help!

I had begun monitoring my oxygen levels because I was having some shortness of breath at times, but it wasn't dipping too low at first. The fatigue and weakness however were unlike anything I'd ever experienced! I never tested my blood sugar for an entire week nor ate anything. I had zero appetite and lost 20 lbs. that week alone.

On January 8th in the evening my shortness of breath got worse, and I called 911. Brought to hospital by ambulance, given steroids, oxygen, inhaler, chest X-Ray, told I had bilateral pneumonia brought on by COVID, but the doctor said he felt I'd had it a while and he thought I would be "turning the corner" and feeling better very soon.

He discharged me! I typically avoid hospitals and really dislike them, but I actually wanted to stay, I was scared! I said this to him: I asked if he truly felt that was a good idea given that I live alone, have untreated sleep apnea and have trouble getting from one room to the other much less climbing the steep stairs to my apartment. He discharged me anyway AND sent me home by taxi. I had to have my neighbor come down and get me out of the taxi and walk/drag me upstairs I was so weak.

Two days later I could barely wake up. My oxygen level read 74! I knew on some level that required emergency help, but I couldn't rouse myself to call. I fell asleep again. My neighbor stopped in at that time. He saved my life as he called 911 immediately. I believe God moved him to come check at that moment! I was in critical care on high flow oxygen, in hospital for five or six days. I had to use a bedside commode because I couldn't walk to the bathroom in my room. I couldn't read or watch TV. I was too fatigued and weak, so I ignored those things. I had chills and awful sweats.

I would pray whenever I woke, and I believe God gave me a miracle because I found out only after I was discharged that I had been diagnosed with "Acute Respiratory Failure Brought On By COVID" and "Acute Kidney Injury Brought On By COVID." The doctor also offered me a drug that is experimental to treat COVID. I accepted it and had to have it witnessed. I had nothing to lose. That drug was baricitinib, a rheumatoid arthritis drug. I had a lot of inflammation throughout my body and apparently the drug helped.
I remember the doctor saying several times "You know you're very sick, Lori." I said yes, I know. But I think he was trying to tell me I was at risk of dying. Thankfully God had other plans for me! I was discharged on oxygen, steroids, inhaler. I had a visiting nurse, visiting physical therapist and occupational therapist. And it took months to get my strength to where I didn't need those services.

I DO believe I have some residual fatigue but also some PTSD because as it approached the holidays a few months ago I got scared, had a few nightmares and certain things remind me of my close call. Take good care and DO get your vaccinations!

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