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Maryland Department of Health


Dawn's Story

Dawn Kelly
Dawn Kelly
St. Mary’s County

“I am so privileged that my insurance was able to cover home oxygen, because I used it all the time for the next two months. Even now I carry a portable tank in my car, and I expect I will need it occasionally for at least a year.”  ~ Dawn Kelly

Dawn Kelly, 27, used to be a competitive swimmer who could hold her breath for two entire lengths of a pool. That’s why she knew that the symptoms she was experiencing when she had Covid-19 in June indicated serious oxygen depletion in her blood. 

“About two weeks after I was diagnosed I knew something was really wrong,” Dawn said. “I was lightheaded, my arms were going numb and I felt like I had just run a marathon and could not catch my breath.” She had a pulse oximeter at her home, and her blood oxygen level percentile measured in the low 80s—well below the threshold for hypoxemia at 90 percent. 

She called her doctor several times, and was put on home supplemental oxygen in June which she still uses. 

In addition to her breathing and oxygen levels, Dawn lost all of her smell and taste for several months. Her sense of taste returned in September, but her sense of smell is still intermittent and usually only works with really unpleasant smells, Dawn said. “I can smell mold, trash, things like that, but only sometimes. And I have the brain fog as well, where I don’t process things like I used to.”

One of the most painful impacts of Covid, according to Dawn, has been the negative effect on some of her closest relationships—because people don’t believe in the seriousness of the pandemic or take precautions. 

“It is sort of like drunk driving to me. If you deny this virus and you act irresponsibly, it might not be bad for you. You might get out of it without hurting yourself,” Dawn said. “But what about if you hurt someone else? Can you live with that? Other people might have to deal with that for life.”

She struggles to understand how people can deny her lived experience of the virus, sometimes right to her face. “I am very blunt and honest, and I have had people say although it was bad for ‘me’ they know or heard other people who were fine. So, usually without any of their own research, they have decided my experience is the anomaly. That is very hard to take.”

She is hopeful that things will get better with the vaccine, and said she will be one of the first to get it when it is available to the public. “I am 100% for the vaccine. I will get it, and I hope others do too.”