'I'm young, I shouldn't be here': My fight with COVID-19

The diagnosis of COVID-19 came as a shock because I had been careful. I bought almost everything online, paused my fitness memberships, I always wore a mask, and worked from home for more than a year. So where did I come into contact with the virus? Wherever it was, it was brief. The effects, however, are not.

After I was diagnosed, I was staying home for the ten-day quarantine and was just a day-and-a-half from being ‘in the clear’ when everything changed.

You never get used to the joint pain: white-hot bolts of raw torture shocking your body with no warning - day and night. Whoever said lightning never strikes the same place twice obviously never had COVID.  

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I tested positive three days before my birthday in late March.  

Minus the achy fatigue and shortness of breath, my symptoms were pretty mild - at first. I quarantined at home for more than a week with little more than some orange juice, cold medicine, and a pulse oximeter to measure my blood oxygen level.

I kept viewers up to date on my progress and then my fever started to spike. As it neared 104, I started to hallucinate. But then Day 8 happened and I thought maybe I can breathe again.

My lungs seemed to be clearing up, but suddenly a debilitating fever and headache. I couldn't even get out of bed and I remember thinking odd the fever waited until now?

Two days later, I was in the hospital. These were some of the updates I sent out:

"Hi everybody this is day 10 of COVID. I'm in the hospital right now and what I'm about to do is extremely hard. The exercise is simple: to roll over on my side and try to breathe. I've been trying it. It's very hard."

"I knew that was going to be hard so I went ahead and got a cloth with ice in it. It spikes my fever when I exert too much energy, but I want you guys to see that this is not a game. I'm young…and I shouldn't be here,"

The fight was only just beginning. 

The hardest days of my life

Between the poking, proning, and the bruising, the next 5 days would be the hardest of my life but there was a bright spot.  

"I feel walking into that room, God was with us and it was at that moment we connected," Jennifer Hannosh, my respiratory therapist said. "Your struggle was real in the hospital. Your fear was real and your feelings were valid. Everything was real. You weren't one of the patients that were on oxygen and fine and could walk up and use the bathroom with no problem. No, you were struggling."

Jennifer is a respiratory therapist with Ascension Providence. She's a crucial part of any health care team, especially now! In critical cases, COVID attacks the lining of the air sacs in the lungs. As the body tries to fight it, your lungs could swell and fill with fluid.

"When I first walked, in you were scared to even talk to me. I felt like you were scared to tell me what you wanted and you made a comment saying ‘I know this is not your job but can you do this, and that breaks my heart because you are my job. I will do whatever you need,'" she told me.

Her job was to keep my lungs clear and my airways open. She did that but she also kept my mind clear and my heart open. 

"The mind will take over your body and that is your worst enemy," she told me.  

I was most afraid at night, thinking I might roll onto my back while I was sleeping and worsen my condition. I was not prepared for the mental component of COVID-19. That was one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. But I was reminded I wasn't fighting alone - thanks to the support of my friends from FOX 2.

Comfort from friends and fans

"When I walk out of that room I don't know if I'm going to see you again, so I have to do something, I have to say something. I have to make sure that you feel loved and bring love back into the room," Jennifer said.  

When the news broke that I was in the hospital, FOX 2 viewers flooded the hospital with flowers, notes, and well wishes. There were so many, in fact, that hospital staff asked to change my name to Sunflower to protect my privacy. But also so they could get back to work.  

But the kindness continued with cups and blankets and salt lamps. I was grateful then and I'm grateful now.

I'm glad to be home, but that's not the end of the story. It was a week before I could climb my own stairs. 

For some, getting out of the hospital is just the beginning.  

"People come and tell me 'I'm reading the same paragraph over and over, it's hard for me to retain what I used to retain before COVID'. I can't think of too many jobs if you had some long COVID symptoms that you would be able to do. If you have to put any amount of focus or effort or talking or breathing it can be very taxing on you, if you have some of those prolonged COVID symptoms," Dr. Victoria Dooley said.

I'm still dealing with a list of long-hauler COVID symptoms and I have double pneumonia and nighttime confusion.

Waiting for a vaccine

COVID survivors have to wait 90 days before receiving the vaccine. While I have the antibodies, that's not the same as having immunity.  

"If you wait it could be at your own peril," Dr. Dooley said. "COVID can lead to scarring and damage to your lungs. If you get it again you could have more scarring and more damage to your lungs. And the second case could be more severe so for those reasons I'm recommending you get the vaccine."

To the doctors who saved me and my guardian angel, Jennifer Hammash, I say thank you.