You may have noticed our Weekly Woman schedule has been a little sparse lately.
That’s because I’ve been sick for the last three weeks, struggling to recover from COVID-19.
Over the last couple days, I’ve just begun to turn the corner and am beginning to feel a little better. Thank you all so much for your well wishes on our Bye PMS facebook group.
The Jubilance team debated whether or not to share my experience with the Sisterhood.
Weekly Woman’s mission is to uplift the voices of real women across the world, highlighting our struggles and celebrating our victories.
In the end, we decided that the story of a woman with COVID-19, told straight from her mouth without any spin, fear-mongering or sugar-coating could only help in this time of panic, stress and misleading information.
For this episode, I’ll become the Weekly Woman guest and pro volleyball player, member of the Jubilance Sisterhood (and also my sister), Samantha Cash, will play the role of interviewer.
Join us on Facebook Live this Friday at noon EST, and respond to this email with any questions or topics you’d like us to discuss.
We’ll be discussing…
- How the symptoms of COVID-19 manifested for me
- The scary experience of recovering alone in quarantine
- Interacting with CDC doctors and the massive confusion and panic at the hospital
- Monitoring my vitals with at-home medical equipment
- Self-care, social and family connection and food delivery while recovering
- And lots more!
After the live interview, this episode of Weekly Woman will be posted to this page here, as well as the usual places across Spotify, Youtube, The Jubilee, Facebook and Instagram.
In the meantime, here is a quick summary of my experience taken from a personal Facebook post that later went viral and caught the attention of NPR.
If this helps one person then I’m happy. There’s so much false information and numbers about COVID 19. I’ve found it helpful to hear from others and to know that we’re all going through this together. Here’s my experience if it’s helpful.
I was in Spain two weeks ago enjoying life, eating deliciously, and having a grand romantic time, little did I know the horror in store for when I returned.
My boyfriend and I were visiting the country for an extended weekend, we’d been planning this trip for months, we were gonna make the most of it.
Everywhere in Spain was operating normally. There were crowds in all the museums, public places, and no one seemed to be concerned about the virus in Italy and parts of Asia. I was the paranoid one, first asking my family and boyfriend if we should even go to the country. But our flight was so cheap that is to a flight attendant friend, and we couldn’t wait for our adventure. I was the crazy one wearing gloves and dousing myself in Purell everywhere we went.
There was a camaraderie in the airport heading home. My boyfriends cousin was in Spain with us and he had a long immigration period where they tested him in his home country of Poland for the virus, and coming from Spain they suggested he quarantine for 14 days. We expected the same cautious treatment in our customs. We got on our plane and wiped down our seats and seat backs with a big tub of Clorox wipes I brought along, as we walked down the plane aisle I handed them out to those that needed them. And we settled in for our flight back to the US.
When we got back to customs at JFK, no one did anything about coronavirus. No one was tested, no one was asked about it, we waltzed on through back into the country.
The next day I needed to be up in Massachusetts for rehearsal for a show I was directing at a university in Worcester, and I just thought I was more and more jet lagged. We’d gotten in past midnight March 9th and I had to wake up early to make it back to Massachusetts on time for a blocking rehearsal to finish act one. It was ambitious, but I figured I’d be tired later, I had a hotel set up right next to the university that night so I wouldn’t have to drive with my jet lag.
I was feeling worse and worse the closer the time was coming to rehearsal. It felt like something, like the size of a monkey, was sitting on my chest as I struggled to breathe properly. I was also just so fatigued and achy. I called my boyfriend and he and his cousin had the same symptoms, 30 minutes before rehearsal I realized that I might have coronavirus and it would be entirely irresponsible of me to be anywhere near students or the college campus I was working on. I hopped into my car and started dialing my stage manager and the board of the production. At first I just thought it had to be jet lag, I felt so guilty for missing rehearsal and so unprofessional to move our timetable of getting the show on its feet into action. I didn’t have a thermometer in the car, obviously, so I reasoned that I could be freaking out over nothing. I was probably fine and Spain was fine.
I called my parents and explained the situation and we started making phone calls. Where could I even go to get tested? I didn’t want to go back onto the campus without knowing for sure, I figured I could just pop into to the testing center wherever it was, confirm I was tired, and go about my production. I grabbed my gloves and masks I brought to Spain, conveniently still in my purse and popped them on over my face and hands, just in case. I zipped over to the Trader Joe’s near the school, stocked up on two weeks worth of food just in case, and then went to the closest CVS where there were no thermometers left on the shelf. I asked the pharmacist about it and she said they’d been out for a week. I headed to the next pharmacy across the way and got the last one, for $40. FML.
I slowly walked back to my car, terrified about what a thermometer might tell me. I just wanted to be sure that “I was just tired, I didn’t feel warm, I was probably fine,” I thought as I took my temperature, “fuck.” It was 102 degrees.
I walked into my hotel room with my gloves and mask on, touching nothing but the door of the room and proceeded to call my parents. My dad had already called the CDC and talked to the Department of Health of Massachusetts. At the time I wasn’t allowed to get tested because I hadn’t come from China, Japan, Iran, or Italy; those were the ONLY people they were testing in Massachusetts. “Fuck” I thought, how was I going to get back to rehearsal if they wouldn’t test me? I was around a number of hospitals so I called their ER hotlines.
“Hi! I just got back from Spain and have a temperature and trouble breathing, I think I need to get tested for coronavirus…”
The operator would gasp and then say they weren’t testing at the time, but if I was really having trouble breathing to go into the ER.
“But I’m worried if I go in and I do have it, I could hurt other people?”
“We can’t tell you what to do. That’s a decision you have to make.”
I also called the Teledoc line from my insurance that told me the same thing. I kept hearing go to your primary care doctor and they’ll assess but you can’t take the test yet. I kept having to explain that I was a visitor to Massachusetts, that I was young and fit and never went to the doctor, and that I just chose anyone available at a Walk In Clinic when I needed someone to prescribe a medication. No help. Everyone just told me to self-quarantine. There was no way I was quarantining in a hotel. I was getting home.
I checked out of the hotel telling them that I needed to be quarantined and to be very careful cleaning the room and I jumped in my car and drove back to Manhattan. At my apartment I put on the emergency blinkers and my mask and gloves, and brought all my food and luggage into my house. I then dropped off the car at the rental agency telling them to take precautions and walked home with my mask and gloves on getting strange looks from my neighbors on the street. It was Tuesday, March 10th, the pandemic hadn’t hit just yet. I got into my apartment closing the door for what I thought would be two weeks.
That evening I directed my rehearsal over Zoom. My amazing assistant took over when I was too weak to keep speaking but we made plans for rehearsals online for the next two weeks. As I hopped into bed after a grueling day my breathing was getting worse and worse. I was struggling for breath just lying down. I am a fit 28-year-old woman who just the week before was in the gym everyday, something was seriously wrong. I called my parents and promised if it got any worse I would go into the ER, and it did. At 11pm last Tuesday, March 10th, I realized I needed to get to the hospital.
I wore my gloves and mask into the emergency room at Mount Sinai and tried to talk to the night secretary about my condition. She told me to write my problem on a piece of paper and slip it through the slot in the window. She went back to talking to the other assistants about some gossip as I tried to stand and not breathe very much. After about ten minutes she finally looked down at that paper with the giant block letters I wrote on it, “CORONAVIRUS.” Her head immediately snapped up and looked at me in horror. She went to grab me and escort me to isolation, but first she said, “oh yeah let me grab a mask.” I was just unprecedented at the time, there weren’t as many cases and people didn’t know what to do. These were still the early days of the virus, it hadn’t been declared a pandemic yet and our president was calling it a “hoax.” There just wasn’t a system in place when I went to receive care.
I was led to a back area of the hospital and put into a private room. They told me they’d communicate with me through the blue phone on the wall so they wouldn’t contract the virus. I watched them as they put up a caution sign on my door for anyone that came in had to wear a hazmat suit. My doctor and nurses were amazing, they tested me for Influenza A and B and respiratory pathogens, the first thing they look for before the coronavirus test, and swabbed my nose in a particularly painful COVID 19 test. At one point I had to go to the bathroom and I called the nurse on my blue phone to ask if I could go out to the restroom. I was not allowed. The nurse put on a hazmat suit and brought in the modern equivalent of a chamber pot. I peed into it with her back turned and then she threw it into the garbage can that said hazardous waste. I was now hazardous waste.
I was deemed ok to be released. They would tell me my tests the next day, except for coronavirus, which I’d hear about on Saturday. My tests were negative for Influenza A and B, and respiratory pathogens; there was really only one conclusion to be made.
My breathing continued to decline. It felt like there was an orangutan on my chest and then a gorilla, I had to just lie in bed, where I’m still recovering. I can’t walk to the kitchen without being completely winded, I can’t go 5 steps to my restroom without needing to hold onto the sink. I had to use scissors to open up chips yesterday, which was an improvement because I wasn’t at all hungry before, and I couldn’t even turn the pepper shaker because I was so weak.
Day to day was a struggle. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, can barely move, and when I walk my heart rate jumps up so high I have to stop with every step. I struggled with anxiety up until two days ago, not knowing how my sickness would turn. It really could’ve gone either way.
My show was canceled. I mourned with the thousands of artists loosing their art.
Last Saturday came and went and I still didn’t have my results. I called the hospital, called my insurance, listened to the nurse that’s been assigned to call me by my insurance (shout out to Oscar for taking care of me), and waited for my results. I still don’t have them. It’s been a week and a half. I have all the symptoms, I’m assuming I have it, but the numbers they’re reporting are wrong, if there are more people like me they’re totally off. We need more help CDC and United States! As my case was unfolding there were no measures in place. The hospitals are working around the clock and my friends in them are amazing, and doing the best they can, but they need help.
I’m feeling better each day but it’s slow going. I still can’t get out of bed without needing to hold on to something. I’m so weak, I can’t stand long enough to feed myself, I just have random food all over next to my bed to be able to grab, and yay, I can eat again!
Everyday I take my temperature every hour and monitor my pulse and oxygen with a Finger pulse oximeter my parents bought on Amazon. My parents have talked to everyone they can think of in the medical community and have helped me every step of the way with constantly checking on my vitals and sending me nutritional supplements to aid my recovery.
I take a Jubilance, three zinc supplements, two women’s vitamins, calcium, turmeric, and elderberry supplements, then I take 1000mg of vitamin C every hour, and breathe in silver to my lungs daily. I take Tylenol every six hours to keep down my fever and throw some electrolyte powder in everything I drink. I’m trying everything.
Until 13 days ago I was a healthy, 28 Year old (29 on Tuesday in quarantine!) marketing manager by day and theatre director by night who contracted COVID-19. I want to share my story to help others. If you have it too, it’s been helpful to understand from others, to talk about what I did and am doing to get better, and to take away the questions we all have about this virus, as well as to plead for more help for our amazing healthcare workers. My case was just the beginning let’s all work together to find a solution.