Never did I think I would write a blog post/article/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. But on Mar. 18, 2020, I found out I tested positive for COVID-19.
I’m not sure where to begin or why I’m even writing this. But I definitely want to bring awareness to the fact that it can happen to anyone, even a 26-year-old, otherwise healthy female.
Also, somewhat selfishly I guess, I want to get these words down on paper. Maybe it will help it feel a little more bearable.
Saturday, 2/29/2020: I get engaged to the love of my life. He rented out part of a beautiful restaurant near our apartment. He had the general manager of the restaurant, my best friends and my family all in on this.
His charming, convincing self (or my gullible self) was convinced we were getting engaged on Mar. 21st at The Charthouse in Annapolis (if it had really been this date, I would have been at home with COVID-19, so good thing it was really in February). Ask my co-workers, my best friends; I couldn’t stop talking about March 21st.
Little did I know, that would be the day after my five-day hospital stay.
Saturday, 3/7/2020-Sunday, 3/8/2020: Trip to New York. No one knew how bad this was. People were calling it a hoax.
My friends and I would stupidly laugh that hand sanitizer was $119.99 on Amazon on Mar. 6 while we had a drink to celebrate our engagement. We knew we had to be a little scared. My fiancé and I brought hand sanitizer on our trip, and we used it a lot, but we wouldn’t have even made the trip had we known how bad this pandemic was becoming.
We got to film something fun for my soon-to-be half-brothers’ b’nai mitzvah. I got to see some of my college roommates/best friends celebrate a friend’s birthday, go out to a nice dinner with my new fiancé and our friends we hadn’t seen in months, and stay at a beautiful hotel. I woke up Sunday morning, Mar. 8, a little hungover from a few too many hard seltzers, and my fiancé and I went to brunch at a small diner right by the hotel.
We got onto the train and headed home. I did my grocery shopping for my upcoming work week (that ended up being one-and-a-quarter days), and meal-prepped. We had dinner with my parents and my sister, and I was feeling very happy. I was even getting ready to start looking at venues, and smiled every time I looked down at my left ring finger.
Monday, 3/9/2020: I started clearing my throat and felt a little “off” that night. I woke up my fiancé at 3 a.m. with a racing heart rate. The heart rate literally woke me up.
I was laying in bed and my heart rate was in the ‘Cardio Zone’ on my Fitbit (which I have since stopped wearing for the time being, because it was causing more panic than good). I was so scared, I even called my parents.
My fiancé almost took me to the hospital. But I took my temperature and I didn’t have a fever, so I tried to sleep it off. “It’s just anxiety, right Cara?”
Tuesday, 3/10/2020: I wake up and still feel a little “off.” Take my temperature, no fever. I took it about five times that morning just to be sure. I call my primary care physician’s office, make an appointment with them at 5 p.m. (the soonest they had), and go back to my parents’ house to sleep.
I take my temperature – 100-point something. “OK, I’m fine. Just wait until you get to the doctor.”
I get to the doctor’s office and take the elevator up, and again my heart rate shoots through the roof on my Fitbit. I’m literally sitting down and my heart cannot slow down. But it’s just anxiety!
My doctor was convinced it was the flu; the lab was closed so I wasn’t swabbed for the flu, and my lungs were clear. So I was sent home with Tamiflu and a Z-Pak. I was ready to feel better when those were finished in five days!
I got this, just the flu.
I had the flu shot, but my doctor explained that it was only 55 percent effective this year. Lucky me, I was in the 45 percent. Nope, it wasn’t the flu.
3/14/2020: My fever shoots to 103.1 in the middle of the night. I wake my mom up every two hours (bless her soul, seriously, she is an angel on earth).
I run into her room telling her I feel nauseous, and suddenly I’m vomiting. “Vomiting?! Do I have a stomach bug on top of the flu? Why have I had a fever of 101 or higher for four days, after taking medicine and Tylenol around the clock??”
I knew this wasn’t the flu anymore. Every day, I sat on the couch (actually a chair, that my sister named ‘the isolation chair’) with my family watching ‘Big Little Lies’ for the second time, or “Father of the Bride;” anything to get my mind off of feeling like absolute crap. But I’d just sit there and randomly start crying out of agony.
My dad would make my favorite meals and bring me popsicles every hour, my mom would put cold washcloths on my head.
Nothing. Was. Helping.
3/15/2020: Continue talking with the on-call doctors, with my mom doing most of the talking because I just felt so sick. The on-call doctor recommended I go to the ER because this was day 5 of a HIGH fever and completely not normal, especially with the vomiting and the cough.
We get there and the automatic doors are literally LOCKED, and each person that walks into the hospital (visitor or not) is screened at the door. Have you traveled internationally in the last month? No. Have you traveled out of the state within the last two weeks? Yes. Immediately, notes were written down and I was taken back to a room.
My mom was able to come back with me. It was very “chill” compared to what I was about to experience in the following days.
They came in, my fever was only 99.7 — of course, it would drop right when I get to the hospital. They swab my nose for the flu, COVID-19, any respiratory virus, do a strep test (almost puked).They do a chest X-Ray and determined that I had small pockets of fluid on my lungs that look like pneumonia and send me home with an inhaler prescription.
“If it gets worse, don’t wait for the three days that the test results take for COVID-19. Come back if you get worse.”
I’m thinking “Alright, I’m fine, doctors are sending me home, I’ll rest to take care of the pneumonia, and all I can do is wait.”
3/16/2020: The first of the five worst days of my life. I wake up again, feeling horrendous. Was I being dramatic?
“You just have to wait for the results, Cara. You’re fine. Breathe in, breathe out.”
We finally get in touch with the doctor. They hear my symptoms, and send me straight back to the ER. This time, it was different. Scary different. Same setup with the doors, same questions, and when my answer was “yes” to the question, “Have you traveled to the tristate area within the last two weeks?” the nurses’ faces changed.
They wrote things down faster this time, took me back to a room where I was immediately given a mask and told to fill out the papers. My mom was, of course, comforting me because that’s one of her specialties.
The nurse comes back in, takes my paperwork and tells me it’s time to go back to a room in the ER. My mom stands up to come with me and I hear, “No, you are not going back with her.”
My heart sank, tears welled up in my eyes. I hugged my mommy, and she was worried. I could see it on her face, and she is normally the master of hiding her worry, especially when it comes to her three “chickies.”
I told her I’d be a big girl and I’d be fine, while my heart pounded and I wiped my tears.
I’m rushed quickly back to an isolation room, very much like the rooms on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (one of my favorite TV shows). Everyone around me was in panic. There were people on stretchers laying, and screaming in agony.
“You can do this, Cara, be a big girl, you’ll be out in no time.” (No, I wouldn’t be).
A white piece of paper is taped onto the outside of my door with a purple Sharpie that says, “PUI.”
“What’s PUI, Google??? Mom, Dad? What’s PUI?” I’m talking to them over FaceTime (and crying), when a wonderful nurse comes in (fully covered in a face shield, a mask, what looked like a blue plastic bag on her body, and purple gloves). She tells me they’re going to do another chest X-Ray.
“WHY?! I have pneumonia!!!! What else is there to look for?” My fever isn’t 99.7 at the hospital anymore like yesterday. It’s 102.
I’m hooked up to an IV. They draw samples of my blood. “THIS IV HURTS, ALL OF IT HURTS, TAKE IT OFF!!!”
I immediately think of my friend who has cystic fibrosis. We’ve known each other since first grade. “She does this all of the time!? Ugh. How. OK, Cara, come on, you’re fine.”
A very nice man comes in and does my chest X-Ray and tells me he hopes I feel better. It’s 10 p.m., the nurse comes in and apologizes that the doctor is taking so long to review my blood work and X-rays because he has so many patients, and hooks me up to oxygen, placing a cannula in my nose.
I lay there crying, FaceTiming my fiancé, texting my college best friends, crying some more, FaceTiming my parents and sisters. I haven’t peed in hours. “Can I go to the bathroom?” “Nope, we can’t have you going to the public restroom. We can bring you a pee bucket.” The nurse brings the bucket in about 30 minutes later (she was working her ass off), my bladder is about to explode. I have to figure out how to get to the bucket with my IVs. I ask for some toilet paper, but got some paper towels.
The doctor comes in. “You have severe bilateral pneumonia, worse in your right lung. You are being admitted to the hospital.” “
“OK, I know you probably can’t answer this, but do I have symptoms consistent with COVID-19? Do you think I have it?”
“Yes, I do think you have it. But we won’t know for at least three to five days.”
“What?! I got my test yesterday and they told me Wednesday the latest — again, what is going to happen to me?!”
A woman comes in and says, “Why did you travel to New York?”
I was stopped in my tracks. “Why? Hmm, not sure, just wanted to get some COVID-19. I DIDN’T KNOW HOW BAD IT WAS, OBVIOUSLY. I WANT MY MOM, AND YOU’RE ASKING ME WHY I TRAVELED WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS?”
Doctor: “You’re being admitted into the hospital.”
I wanted my nurse to come with me. She was so sweet. She told me she wished she could come but she knows I’ll be OK. “You’re young, you will fight this.”
I held onto those words for the next four days. I’m literally wheeled in my hospital bed to a new floor at midnight. Lovely nurse was waiting for me, had ice water ready for me, showed me how to bring the IV pole (probably incorrect term) to the bathroom without ripping things out of my arm, and set me up in bed.
“OK, Cara, it’s uncomfortable but just do what they tell you to do, maybe you’ll leave tomorrow.”
Here I was, 26-years-old, newly engaged, confused as hell, missing my family and crying like a baby.
“How was I in the hospital overnight? This has never happened to me before. I miss my apartment. I miss my kitty. I miss my fiancé. I miss my parents and sisters who have been taking care of me for the last week. Get me out of here!”
3/18/2020, 1 a.m.: Lights turn on. Nurse: “Cara, wake up. We’re moving you to a different floor.”
No one answered me for about 10 seconds, which felt like 10 minutes. “You’ve tested positive.”
I’m wheeled to the next floor, where the transporter drops me off and I’m sitting alone in a room. It wasn’t their fault, but the floor didn’t even know I was coming. My mom calls the nurses’ desk. They’re all over-worked and tired.
A nurse comes in. He tries to be comforting but I can hear the fear in his voice, too. He told me a doctor would call me tomorrow, maybe come see me if he can and to try to get some rest.
Continued FaceTime dates with my family and friends, everyone trying to cheer me up. A lot of it worked. But when the FaceTimes were over and my mom couldn’t come visit me or give me a hug, and when my dad was turned away at the door to even drop off a bag with shampoo/conditioner (I hadn’t showered since Mar. 16 — lucky me, I thought to shower before going to the ER), it all sunk in.
“The virus got you, Cara. You’re on oxygen. One of the nurses told you that if your lung function didn’t improve, you may have to be intubated just two short days ago. But you didn’t, you’re fighting it.”
I want to go home.
3/19/2020: Doctor over the phone: “Your blood work looks good. Take off the oxygen, let’s see how it goes.”
We tried this yesterday and I needed it right away. I wasn’t hopeful. However, I ended up being surprised. I could breathe without something shooting oxygen up my nose!!
The doctor called to check in a few hours later and unlike yesterday, I was able to give him the news that I didn’t need it anymore. He would call in my prescriptions and I could leave today!
Nope. My prescriptions weren’t ready in time before the pharmacy closed. My nighttime nurse comes in (seriously, bless all of your souls. I’m sorry for being one of the terrified patients). She gives me my meds and tells me that I’m going to be here another night, my medicine wasn’t ready. “WHAT??!!?”
I was SO ready. So ready, that my parents had already set up a fridge in my room at home and so ready that my uncle picked up a microwave from a family friend (because the rest of my family was quarantined due to my lovely virus), and everything was set up and ready to go!
I was dreaming of my shower, my “Friends” DVD collection, Netflix, Hulu, and my bed. “No more hospital wahoo!!!!” JK, you’ll be here another night.
3/20/2020: I get to go home. I get to shower. I don’t get to see my fiancé or kitty, but I get to go home to my family and my childhood room where I’m thankful enough to have my own bathroom (not sure how this would’ve worked if not).
Thought I’d be strong enough to walk down to my mom’s car by myself. I was wrong. I had to call for a wheelchair to take me down. My mommy picks me up, such a big smile on her face. “I’m going home!!!”
We get into my garage, I take off all of my clothes, and we put them in a trash bag. I walk up the steps, my sisters say hi and tell me that they love me. I see my dad; my room is set up for me. I have to sit down on my bed to catch my breath before I can even put my bags down — the steps felt like running a marathon.
I have to take a shower, the one I’d been dreaming of. Little did I know that a shower would be one of the most exhausting things I’ve done in a while.
3/24/2020: Day 5 of isolation in my bedroom, typing this out while my family is quarantined in our house. I’m sitting here talking to friends, waiting for my doctor to tell me the timeline of everything.
Coughing (though less frequently) and anxiously waiting to hear when I can return to my normal daily activities after the isolation period. But I’m not hooked up to IVs or oxygen, I don’t have a fever, and I hope it stays that way
Stay safe and stay home. Tell everyone that you love how much you love them, as many times as you can.
A Reisterstown resident, Cara J. Yerman is a 2012 Garrison Forest School graduate and a speech-language pathologist.
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