COVID-19: “I’m sorry to tell you you’re positive”

By Amy Roberts

In this blog post, 40-year-old Amy Roberts from Ligonier, Pennsylvania, shares her experience of being exposed to COVID-19, getting severely ill, seeking testing and treatment, and her long recovery from the virus.

By mid-February, my 10-year-old son was coming home from school every day asking, “Mom, what is going to happen if we get the coronavirus?” There was rampant talk about this virus in his school and on the news and we watched as it spread in China and Italy. I reassured him daily that we were safe and didn’t have anything to worry about. He continued to worry, and I continued to not be that concerned. 

I started not feeling well by the end of February with flu-like symptoms. I went to a local urgent care and since I hadn’t traveled out of the country, the doctor wasn’t concerned that it was COVID-19. I was swabbed for the flu, which came back positive, and I felt lousy for a couple days. I still didn’t worry about getting COVID-19. 

I work as a Home Health Occupational Therapy Assistant for a local home health company. The second week in March I got a call from my employer stating that one of my patients was being tested for COVID-19 and I should stay home until her results came back. Testing was still infrequent in March with results taking anywhere from 8-14 days to come back. I sat at home and waited and waited. Still no results. 

On March 14 I developed a terrible kind of cough where you think you’ll cough so much that you’ll be sick. On March 16 I woke up with the worst chills I have ever had. My teeth hurt I was shaking so much. My temperature was 104.2. By later that day my body hurt everywhere, the coughing continued with shortness of breath, and my heart felt like it was racing. There was still no test results from my patient and I started to worry that I should get tested. 

On March 19 I called the only local testing center and was told they could test me, but results were taking 10-14 days. I saw a TV ad for Central Outreach testing at The Pittsburgh Zoo – simply drive up in your car. Unfortunately, when I called I learned there was no testing at the zoo, but testing was being performed at their center in Aliquippa. This was over an hour from home, but test results were only taking 48 hours to come back, so on Friday, March 27, I made the drive to Aliquippa. 

The swab felt like it went down into my stomach. It was very uncomfortable for 30 seconds but tolerable. They gave me an inhaler to help with the shortness of breath and I went home to wait for test results. 

Saturday night, March 28, at 11:30 PM the doctor from Central Outreach texted asking me to call for my test results. I remember saying to my fiancé, they don’t call this late at night to tell you you’re negative. When I called I heard, “I’m sorry to tell you you’re positive.”

The tears started. The greatest fear my son had was here. What if I gave this to him? My fiancé? Anyone I had been around before I quarantined? I was absolutely devastated and sick. 

After my diagnosis, my symptoms changed. The fever broke but I was still short of breath. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed after climbing the steps to our bedroom. I couldn’t believe I could feel so bad. My heart rate climbed to 150-160 BPM just getting off the couch, and while the inhaler helped, my oxygen levels dipped into the 80s. 

Over a 10-day period, the fever returned at night reaching 103 degrees at its highest and dissipated by mid-morning. My symptoms were all over the place from headaches and shortness of breath, to an upset stomach. There’s nothing the doctor would give me to help; it had to run its course. 

On April 11 my heart rate was so high and my oxygen was so low, I was panicked. I made the trip to the ER where I was put in one of the COVID-19 rooms and hooked up to monitors. A CT scan and chest x-ray showed no pneumonia. The doctor explained findings were showing a last respiratory event at the end of symptoms; within 24 hours I should begin to feel better. The next day the fever broke and I felt better aside from lingering shortness of breath and a high heart rate. Those issues remained even after I was cleared to go back to work. 

Having gone through this horrible illness I am sharing my story in hopes that people will listen. Wear a mask, social distance, stay home if you can. If I can help raise awareness so that just one person doesn’t get sick, that would be a wonderful thing!

Amy Roberts has been a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant for 20 years. She lives with her fiancé, BJ, and her son, Will, and is relieved that neither of them became ill. She is a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan and enjoys watching Will play hockey for the Westmoreland Eagles.

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your story of surviving COVID-19. We wish you a complete recovery and thank you for raising awareness about the seriousness of the virus.

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