Maryland Department of Health
Retiree Experiences After Effects
Like most people, Frederick County resident Elizabeth was cautious in recent months, avoiding the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask whenever she was outside She was diligent about handwashing, and limited her time outside the house.
She began having gastrointestinal problems on March 21, with subsequent respiratory distress beginning on March 27, but she did not associate these issues with COVID-19. “I hadn’t been anywhere strange and didn’t know anyone else that had caught the virus,” Elizabeth recalls.
Elizabeth, 64, scheduled a visit with her primary care physician due to her diarrhea, feelings of exhaustion, and extreme shortness of breath. She also had a very deep bronchial cold which left her believing she “might cough up a lung.”
Elizabeth and her PCP believed she had seasonal asthmatic bronchitis and treated her with Doxycyclin, Symbicort and Albuterol. While she was there, since she fit the criteria for testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), her doctor also took a swab for COVID-19.
On April 1st, Elizabeth got her positive COVID-19 result which she describes as “shocking.” She also received instructions to self-quarantine,
A mild fever, extreme cough and fatigue were the predominant symptoms during the early days of her infection, but she experienced a severe barrage of new symptoms on April 16 which she called a “nosedive” for her health. Her cough returned, along with a terrible headache, tight chest and a frequent feeling of being out of breath.
“I was so exhausted just lying there in bed, in a semiconscious state between long periods of sleep. I wondered to myself if I closed my eyes and went to sleep whether I would ever wake up again,” recalls Elizabeth.
When she was ready to give up she called her physicians, and he prescribed hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and zinc. Her symptoms began to ease – but on May 5 she was suffering with an unrelenting headache, cough, and shortness of breath so she went to the ER. She was admitted to the COVID-19 ICU Isolation for observation. It was 45 days from her original day of symptoms.
Elizabeth still receives medical care for headaches and respiratory issues which she believes are the after effects of her illness from the virus. She has several specialists working together to determine how the continuing long-term effects are continuing to make her recovery so difficult. Recently she was diagnosed with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome.
She is dedicated to sharing her journey, hoping to advance medicine and support for patients who have had long-term COVID experiences.
Elizabeth is currently participating in a rheumatology study The National Databank of Rheumatic Diseases which is being conducted in the United States. She has also been included in an international study of 700+ participants examining the potential impact on COVID-19 patients on patients with a Rheumatic Disease.
She’s active with Long Haul COVID Fighters, a private Facebook Group devoted to providing support and discussion for people who have had COVID for a month or are recovering from a long spell with the virus.
“People are still having problems even after a few weeks or months later,” Elizabeth says. “I’m hoping more people get to know about the long-term problems from the virus.”
Despite her lingering headaches and fatigue, Elizabeth is happy for her recovery and hopeful for life beyond. She’s looking forward to reconnecting with her friends, but worries that her experience with COVID-19 might be an obstacle.
“I don’t know anyone else that’s had this. I worry that they’ll be afraid to catch it from me and keep their distance,” she says
Elizabeth’s advice to those dealing with COVID-19 or recovery is hopeful: “Don’t panic – we are surviving. Just remember to be gracious, kind and supportive of each other and the medical community. Please remember that we may not always have the answers, but everybody is doing the best they can, under the circumstances,” Elizabeth says.