My Covid Story
Marcia shares a breadth of insights related to COVID-19, both personally and professionally.
As a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in a busy surgical practice, Marcia believes she could have caught the virus anywhere – on the crowded bus or subway commuting to work (1½ hours each direction); from a coughing patient; or perhaps a colleague with cold-like symptoms who ultimately tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Regardless, not having traveled out of the country or state, her contraction in mid-March was from community transfer. While Marcia’s symptoms were mild at first (fever that never rose above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, headache, scratchy throat, runny nose, and nausea), three weeks later, Marcia, who is 62 years old with a history of asthma, developed a cough that would not quit. She needed a course of steroids to counter the bronchospasm and wheezing triggered by the cough. Now more than one month later, her cough is finally beginning to ease up.
Once her initial symptoms had subsided for 72 hours, the hospital where she works was ready to deploy her to another location in the healthcare system since the usual surgeries and post-operative care were not taking place during the initial phases of the pandemic. She was not retested for the virus nor was she tested for antibodies, at least not right away. The guidance, in those early days when tests were especially scarce, was to use symptoms to monitor readiness to return to work in the healthcare world. Marcia was nervous because she didn’t feel 100%; she still felt rundown, worn out, and she worried whether she could, in fact, contract the virus again. For this reason, she, and her husband and boss, who also both had the virus, sought testing for antibodies. Each of them tested positive, but remained unsure of just how to interpret the results; the amount of antibody necessary to protect someone from reinfection isn’t known, nor is the amount of time that the antibodies last. Marcia was also nervous, because being redeployed might mean need for retraining, since there were aspects of patient care that she hadn’t done in awhile.
As it turned out, Marcia was able to join a unique and innovative team that involved telehealth, which eased her worries and saved her from either potentially exposing others or getting re-exposed to COVID-19 herself. The innovative telehealth that she and her colleagues are working on involves following up with all people who have been hospitalized or seen in the emergency room (ER) with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. They ask a series of questions used to screen for how people are doing medically, especially because this virus seems to be connected to multiple post-viral syndromes with odd symptoms that last weeks to months. Separate from the lingering physical symptoms, one common theme encountered by Marcia and her colleagues is that the COVID-19 patients experience a sense of let-down or even abandonment (my word, not Marcia’s). Essentially, some patients describe being discharged somewhat quickly (presumably to make space for newly admitted COVID-19 patients) without a clear plan for follow up and feeling somewhat alone because of the inability to see their doctors.
The biggest challenge for her personally has been not being able to see her own children, one of whom is engaged and they are likely to postpone the wedding.
As Marcia explained, there are several reasons for limited access to MDs in the current climate and shortage of office visits. Some clinicians have been sick themselves; others don’t feel comfortable treating COVID-19 patients, sometimes because they themselves have co-morbid conditions; and other practitioners are only conducting telehealth visits and sending COVID-19 patients back to the ER for follow up and assessment. The patients themselves, then, worry about returning to the hospital. Marcia calls to check-in with this growing cohort of patients on a regular basis; she now has a cadre of practitioners who can and will see people recovering from COVID-19 in person if necessary. One of her colleagues, too, has more recently been distributing thermometers and pulse oximeters to better monitor any recurring signs or symptoms like fever or poor oxygenation.
When asked about patterns that she is detecting with the follow up phone calls, Marcia reports that lingering loss of taste and smell are common as is diarrhea which can lead to dehydration requiring hospitalization.
Marcia says that the biggest challenge for her personally has been not being able to see her own children, one of whom is engaged and they are likely to postpone the wedding.
Speaking of children, Marcia has another unique perspective: her grown son has autism and lives in a private facility where they managed to keep the virus completely out. It is an integrated, multi-generational institution with 30 students and 10 houses. Early on, the administrators informed families of the plan to shut down the community, isolate the homes, and not allow visitors, giving them the choice to either bring their children (of all ages) home or allow them to stay on campus. Given their stringent shelter-in-place rules, they’ve managed to shield all residents from contracting COVID-19 in an otherwise risky location due to proximity and closeness. Definitely a notable success story!