Pagosa Springs’ first identified COVID-19 case shares her experience


Editor’s note: The SUN is honoring the wishes of the author of this story to remain anonymous. 

I live in Pagosa Springs and tested positive for COVID-19. It’s my hope the information here will help you understand a little more about how this nasty virus arrived in our beautiful mountain town. I’m the first and I’m certain I won’t be the last.

It all started when I took a business trip out of the country. On Monday, March 9, I noticed a slight cough, but didn’t think much about it. My destination was wet and cold and I’d been running from dawn to midnight since we arrived.

On Wednesday, March 11, I flew back to Durango where my husband picked me up at the airport. We had agreed before I left that I would go into isolation and no kissing for two weeks. Thank goodness we made this agreement.

On Thursday morning, I started to get worried as the coughing became worse, I ached all over and my head was pounding like I had a migraine. So I called my doctor and spoke to his nurse. She advised me if I didn’t have shortness of breath, it wasn’t COVID-19. And at that time, I was breathing fine.

Friday, I ran a noticeable fever and went to bed. Saturday, I stayed in bed sleeping and taking Advil. Sunday, I realized when I walked across the room, I was starting to sound like a six-pack-a-day smoker as I gasped for air.

Monday, I don’t remember much as I felt so bad and switched to Tylenol. But early Tuesday morning, I woke up about 2 in the morning shivering. My temperature was 102.9 degrees, and I was gasping to breathe. Unable to sleep, I went into our living room and spent the rest of the night with two big blankets covering me and the heating pad at my back.

During the night, I started to get worried as I struggled to breathe. Early that morning, I made the decision we were going to the ER. In my 63 years on this earth, I’ve never been to the emergency room. Knowing it was probably COVID-19, and I was highly contagious, I called the ER in advance.

At first, I think the staff was skeptical, as they should be. When we arrived, the nurse came out to the parking lot all gowned up with a mask on. She took my vitals and, by this time, my fever had broken. They did a regular flu test to rule out influenza. Then, the ER doctor came out and listened to my lungs and said, “I think you have COVID.”

By this time, I suspected as much. The hospital had limited test kits at the time, but they decided to use one on me. They asked me to self-isolate, which I agreed to. We went straight home from the ER and I returned to bed, running a fever once again.

That day, we noticed my symptoms seemed to worsen after taking ibuprofen and I switched to aspirin. Two days later, my fever broke. 

During the next week, our neighbors and friends brought us food and left it on the deck. No one was allowed into our home while we waited for the results. My husband self-quarantined with me and it was an anxious time as we watched the news of the growing pandemic.

Nine days later, the call came from the hospital ER doctor. “You have COVID-19.” No, I wasn’t shocked. The ER doctor had warned me and my own intuition kept telling me this was not bronchitis or the regular flu.

The staff at Pagosa Springs Medical Center was excellent, they were professional and sympathetic. But if you really want to stop the spread, we need the results right away. That’s not the hospital’s fault, but the testing facilities’, which are overrun.

Thank goodness I did not leave my house since the trip to the ER on March 17. I’m now under quarantine for another 10 days and I’ve not had a fever in almost two weeks.

Slowly, I’m starting to feel better. Not great, as I tire easily and still have a tendency to run out of air. My chest hurts less, but occasionally, it will tell me it’s time to sit down. The cough is still there, but not as bad. It’s going to take time to heal.

While I was out of the country, I took every precaution. I wore leather gloves, used almost a full bottle of hand sanitizer, tried not to touch anything, but somehow the virus still found me.

At this time, I feel very fortunate that I’m a healthy, stubborn 63-year-old who had no underlying health problems and believe that’s the reason I survived. That and lots of rest. Slowly, I’m trying to build my strength back, but I’m going to stay home until the end of April. My immune system needs time to rebuild to protect me and the virus is still out there.

Thank God, my husband shows no signs of it, and he’s in isolation with me. For the safety of everyone, including our health professionals, please stay home. Take this virus serious and use every precaution to avoid it. Most of all, at this time, do not travel. My travel destination was beautiful and I want to return, but not until this is over. Stay home. Stay safe.

 

Links to COVID-19 coverage

 

This story was posted on March 30, 2020.