With COVID-19 spreading across the country, many people are now thinking of how to keep their friends, their families, and themselves safe from the virus. But for those whose lives have already been affected, one huge question is: what comes next? According to ArcaMax, recovered patients are experiencing many mental, physical, and emotional impacts that could last for a while.
As explained by PatientWorthy’s own Trudy Horsting, COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus caused by SARS-CoV-2. Novel means that it has never been seen before in humans, and nobody has an immunity to the disease. Although it is in the same category as the flu or SARS, COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic.
Symptoms of COVID-19 appear anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks after exposure. Fever, a dry cough, and shortness of breath are considered the most common symptoms. However, symptoms such as a loss of smell and taste, or mental confusion, have been reported. Learn more from the CDC.
Katina Theodorou: Anxiety and Camaraderie
34-year-old Katina Theodorou, a respiratory therapist from Stickney, IL, has a 20-month-old son and is currently pregnant. COVID-19 can cause severe respiratory distress. As such, Katina’s skill set is essential in combating COVID-19; she can intubate patients in need, provide oxygen, and set up ventilators. But despite her commitment to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) at work, Katina contracted COVID-19 – a potential threat to her first trimester pregnancy. The patient she contracted it from was not known to be positive for the disease at the time.
As Katina isolated herself at home, unable to care for her son, she felt extreme stress and anxiety. What if she started cramping or bleeding? She spoke to her obstetrician daily as the disease wracked her body. As she remembers it:
“I literally felt like I would die. I couldn’t breathe… I would be sweating and have the chills and then I would be soaked…like I had just come out of the shower.”
But more than just the physical and emotional stress, Katina felt obligated to go back to her job and help. Though she has not returned to work yet, and is still recovering, she remembers watching a patient die at the hospital, unable to say goodbye to her kids. When she does return to work, she hopes to provide a sense of comfort and support to patients. As a recovered patient herself, and a medical worker, Katina wants to remind the world that we are all working together to reduce the impact of COVID-19.
Michael Bane: Guilt and Fear
42-year-old father Michael Bane, from Berwyn, IL, recently returned home after spending 10 days at Rush Medical Center, recovering from the severe respiratory symptoms of COVID-19. He had been in an isolation unit, struggling with an aggressive, dry, and painful cough. When asked to describe his experience, he says it is akin to what drowning must feel like.
Now, at home, Michael is struggling with his responsibilities as a husband and father. What if he is no longer contagious but still fears spreading it? What if he thought he was better and another family member or friend became sick? Admittedly, he fears his mental state if his wife or daughter became ill.
Michael’s story truly underscores the importance of providing mental health assistance to patients and their families following COVID-19 treatment, death, or recovery.
Stuart Nissenbaum: Frustration and Hope
28-year-old Stuart Nissenbaum, from Long Grove, IL, feels frustrated by the process of getting tested for COVID-19. He was tested on March 18. But it took 2 weeks to get a positive result.
While Stuart self-isolated during this time, he feels that many patients may not. If people can convince themselves that they don’t have the disease or aren’t at risk of it, they may just keep interacting with others. This is one fear around why the pandemic might last longer than expected.
But more than that, Stuart worries that many patients may not have access to adequate healthcare, putting up barriers in marginalized communities and contributing to additional harm. He notes that the American healthcare system has had many issues in the past. But in this, there is a glimmer of hope. In addition to exposing the failures of the system, Stuart hopes that this pandemic will prompt change and a greater sense of community. At the very least, he knows that he will be donating convalescent plasma, which could help others fight their own COVID-19 infections and give researchers a jumping off point for a cure.
Mic Reich: Revolutionary and Energetic
36-year-old nonprofit consultant Mic Reich has ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease which causes sores in the large intestine. But because of Mic’s experience with UC, she is hyper-attuned to how her body is feeling. So when she experienced some stuffiness and sinus pain, muscle aches, and a painful cough, Mic knew something was wrong. Later, she was even hospitalized.
Now, Mic sees COVID-19 as something which has brought people together. She cites the commitment to remote work, the willingness of the community to bring her groceries, and a rise in online and in-person support. She hopes that having antibodies for COVID-19 will allow her to volunteer at a food bank and provide help to those in need. As for the future? Well, says Mic:
“Hopefully, the revolution has started.”
Terri Chaseley: Guilt and Gratefulness
45-year-old Terri Chaseley, a mother of three from Highland Park, IL, spent time in a negative-pressure isolation unit while hospitalized. She describes the experience as frightening and “life-altering,” wondering if she would ever get to spend time with her family again. Additionally, she worried about the medical providers who treated her:
” They knew that I had a disease that could potentially be fatal to them. And they were still coming in my room and treating me.”
Since coming home to her family, Terri says that her perspective has changed. She now sees more importance in spending time with family, and not just in the packed schedules from earlier this year.
Patients with COVID-19 may experience longterm emotional effects stemming from their time in treatment. However, while some of this may include fear or anxiety, there is also hope, love, and gratefulness. It showcases the importance of medical professionals in COVID-19 recovery, and also the meaning of community support.