What It's Like To Have COVID-19 Symptoms For Nearly 2 Months
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
COVID-19 can impact different people in different ways. Some barely get sick. Others face respiratory issues and need ventilators and ICUs. We're now going to meet someone who has had the virus and suffered its symptoms for almost two months. That's the story for 37-year-old Erica Jorn. She lives in Denver, Colo. The state issued social distancing orders back in March but has now begun the first phases of reopening. Erica has been self-isolating the entire time, and she joins us from her home.
ERICA JORN: Thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How are you doing right now? How are you feeling?
JORN: Today is actually an OK day. I'm burning up right now. Earlier I wasn't. But it's kind of just hit-and-miss on when symptoms decide to show up and how long they decide to last.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you say burning up, I mean, how high does your fever get?
JORN: My fever hasn't been getting too high. Right now, it's about 100.5, and yesterday it was up into 101. But it just feels like my body's on fire right now. But hopefully the Tylenol and the Advil will kick in soon.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So take me back to when you first started noticing symptoms. Did you think it was COVID? What did you feel?
JORN: At first, I just thought I was getting sick. And I had heard and seen everything about COVID going on 'cause it was really early March. So I just didn't feel well, and I left the office. But then I didn't have the typical symptoms. I haven't had any respiratory issues. So I've had a lot of GI issues, and I would...
JORN: Yeah. So I had that, and I had some telehealth appointments with my doctor. And at first, he didn't think I was sick enough to need a test and said, you know, it's probably not COVID. Call back if you get worse. So a few days later in mid-March, I called back. And they said, yeah, you probably do need a test, but Colorado doesn't have any right now, so we can't send you for one.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow. How long did it take for you to get tested?
JORN: Yeah. I first felt sick on March 11, and I got tested on March 23.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was it like during that period to suspect that you might have COVID and not be able to find out for sure?
JORN: I mean, it's been a little bit of a mind game because it's an - on the one hand, it's like, I don't have the respiratory symptoms, and I'm not gasping for air like they keep talking about. But I'm really sick. But am I sick enough to go to the ER? Should I take that resource from someone who really needs it?
I finally had enough gastrointestinal symptoms over that weekend. I called a hospital here locally, National Jewish hospital, and just did the, like, ask to talk to a nurse line. She had me explain what I was feeling, and she said, absolutely, you need to come in and get tested today. And later that evening, she called me back with the results from the blood test and said, you actually have a really, really concerning and alarming low level of a certain type of white blood cell. And you're very susceptible to infection, so you need to go to the ER.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And when you discovered that you had COVID, what did you think?
JORN: Well, when I went to the ER that evening, the doctor - by looking at everything, he said, we're waiting on your results, but I would be more surprised than not, you know, if you didn't have COVID. So at that point, I kind of was like, OK, I guess I do have it. But that also seemed like the point in time where, like, once you got it, you were supposed to be better in two weeks.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But what has happened to you? Have your symptoms changed at all, or is it been just pretty consistently feeling like this?
JORN: They've changed. I mean, there's - I sadly have a spreadsheet of about 30 symptoms I've been tracking because it started out as a little...
JORN: ...Piece of paper when they told me to monitor my symptoms.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you have that spreadsheet handy?
JORN: I do.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you mind reading just a few of the symptoms that you've had?
JORN: Yeah. So aches, chills, fever, cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, exhausted, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of smell, sore throat, confusion, high heart rate and a headache.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I cannot imagine the toll, both physical and mental, that this has taken on you. This must be very hard.
JORN: I mean, I feel - it's kind of that mind game where I feel lucky, like, I didn't end up on a ventilator. I didn't end up on oxygen or any worse. But at the same point, it's like, I never thought this could possibly last this long and be this - I don't know - serious.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are doctors telling you about what you need to be doing and what may come next?
JORN: From what they can tell from my most recent test results, they believe I'm in the middle of an active infection, which is a little bit hard to swallow at this point that it could be the middle and not the end. And I've tested positive for both of the antibodies. So that adds a little confusion because I've got the short-term antibodies that you develop, I guess, when you've been infected very recently, as well as the longer-term ones that you get after you've been infected for a while. So that's their best guess - is that it's still in the midst of an active infection. So I guess I'm not in recovery yet.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think about states starting to take the steps to open back up, including your own Colorado?
JORN: I just think it's incredibly shortsighted. I used to live in Asia, and so I've got a lot of friends over there still. And I see their stories on social media. And they went through this before we did the first time, and it was very jarring to see kind of everybody go on lockdown and wear masks and hear all the news that was happening over there. But it seemed far away. It's just really confusing to me why we don't look at them as being a few months ahead of us of knowing that it's going to happen here where there's going to be another wave. More people are going to get sick. I mean, I've been in isolation the entire time the state of Colorado has been on stay-at-home. And now they're opening up, and I'm still on isolation.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Erica Jorn lives in Denver, Colo.
We wish you all the best and a speedy recovery. Thank you very much for speaking with us.
JORN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.