Those were the words of 37-year-old Seattle resident Elizabeth Schneider, who tested positive for the COVID-19 and then recovered.
In an exclusive interview with 89.5 Star FM Baguio, the local from Washington revealed that she was shocked when she got the news that she had contracted the virus. The state of Washington, being the epicenter of the contagious disease in the United States has already recorded more than 1,000 cases, and Schneider was one of the people to have been infected.
So how did Schneider get the deadly virus? She shares, “I went to a party on a Saturday with a group of friends. It was a typical house party, so we had a pot luck. Each person brought a dish to share. We were just socializing and enjoying each other’s company.”
Schneider says that no one in the gathering had shown any signs that they were unwell, “At that party, no one was visibly sick. No one was coughing, sneezing, or looked like they had a fever.”
About three days after the socializing, she began to feel sick and felt the need to stay at home.
“The following Tuesday, I woke up in the morning and I was feeling kinda tired, feeling a little bit off. I went to work as usual. About halfway through work, I started feeling unwell and I started to feel like I was starting to get a cold. I had a headache. I felt fatigue. I had some body aches. I felt a little feverish so I decided to go home. I worked from home. I took a nap in the early evening and when I woke up, I had a 101°F temperature. By the time I went to go to bed, my temperature was 103 °F.”
Because of the sudden spike of her temperature, she began to consider going to the hospital, “I just called a friend and asked her if she would be available if I needed to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night. But the next day, when I woke up, I had a fever of 101 and my temperature went down. So at that time, I thought that I just had a nasty flu. At that point, I was shivering uncontrollably. I was having the chills. My hands started feeling numb. At that point, I definitely knew that I was sick.” She adds that she did not think it was the coronavirus because she lacked symptoms, “I did not suspect the coronavirus at all because I didn’t have any cough, or didn’t have any tightness in my chest, or any shortness of breath.”
To her surprise, she was not the only one experiencing this, “What ended up happening is, unbeknownst to me, is several other people, about a dozen, from the party, they all got sick on exactly the same day.”
Because of this, her friends started to consult professionals, but they were all sent back home because according to doctors, they tested negative for the disease and that it was just an ordinary flu, “The doctor thought that they just had a flu, so they were tested for the flu. The doctor basically just sent them home to rest.”
Still, the group felt that it wasn’t enough and they wanted to be tested for the coronavirus, “All of us were talking and we were frustrated that we weren’t getting tested for the coronavirus. At that point, one of my friends pointed us to a research study that’s happening in Seattle called the Seattle Flu Study. They have been collecting nasal swab samples of people in Seattle to test for flu, but recently, they started testing for the coronavirus. So we all did that. I did the test as well, then I got a call from a research coordinator at the study saying that I tested positive for the coronavirus.”
According to the Seattle local, six people from the party also tested positive of the virus. “We all got sick with the coronavirus at a party, and strangely enough, as I said, no one there was visibly sick, so they probably hadn’t had the onset of the illness yet.”
How does one deal with the news that he or she tested positive for a pandemic? She shares, “Initially, I was definitely shocked. This whole time I thought that I just had a really bad strain of the flu.” But she was also relieved because she no longer felt bad, “When I got the call, I was feeling better. I was recovered. I wasn’t sick anymore, and I haven’t gone to the doctor at all. I didn’t have any life-threatening symptoms. I did not need to be hospitalized, so I wasn’t very scared.”
She admits that she was also glad to have a bit of background with studies related to it, “I was, to be honest, a little pleasantly surprised and the reasoning for that is that my personal background is that I have a PHD in Bioengineering. I did Molecular Biology Research in college, in graduate school and I worked for a bio technology company here in Seattle. I know a lot about the body and viruses and the immune system. I’ve been reading a lot about this particular virus.”
The Seattle Flu Study then advised her that it was okay to stay at home and sent her the guidelines for total recovery, “You should isolate yourself for 7 days after you show symptoms of being sick, or 72 hours after your fever subsides— whatever is the longer of the two. So at that point, it had been 11 days since I had fallen sick, and 3 to 4 days after my fever have subsided. According to that guideline, I was most contagious during that period and so I couldn’t actually go out into the community.”
Though her condition was considered as mild coronavirus, she shares about the worst parts of the experience, “The worst symptom I had was a 103°F fever, and I had shivering and chills, just briefly while I had that high temperature fever. I had body aches. I had parts of my body that were really sore and hurt. Kind of like I just had a really intense workout. I had a bad headache. I did get congestion in my sinuses, and I got a bit of a runny nose, and I had congestion in my ears. There was one day that I had a little bit of nausea, a little bit of an upset stomach. There were a couple of days that I had loose motion, so that is something that I had to deal with as well.”
Her experience and the experience of other people around led to the discovery that cases and symptoms vary from one person to another, depending on one’s age, health conditions and other aspects, “The symptoms can vary wildly from one person to another. I did not have a cough. I didn’t have any shortness of breath, tightness in my chest, or any respiratory symptoms. I genuinely believe that this virus affects different people differently, depending on your age, your health history, if you have any other underlying health condition, also depending on the strength of your immune system, you know, what other things have you been infected with in your life, and also the viral load. In other words, how many viral particles have you actually got infected with at the time of ingesting or contracting of the virus.”
With this, she firmly believes that some people may have actually contracted the virus without their knowledge, “Without volunteering for that test, I would have never known that I contracted it. I think there are a lot of people out there who just think that they have a nasty cold, or even a mild cold or flu, and they have the coronavirus, and they’re not getting tested because they recovered just by staying at home.” She also thinks people may have passed on the virus to a lot of other individuals without knowing it, a reason why being tested is essential, “A lot of people that are in that situation, they may go out and about into the public. They even go to work and transmit it to someone at work unknowingly.”
At present, Schneider is recovering and has been out in the public a couple of times. But she reveals that she still feels a little tired from the illness, “I have been feeling a little tired just from recovering. I haven’t had a second test yet, to see whether or not I test negative. It is possible that the virus circulates in your system for quite a long time. I have heard examples of people that still test positive, 2 and 3 times after they tested several weeks after they get sick, but I do believe that I am not contagious anymore.”
She recommends that during this time when a virus is spreading, it is best to stay at home, “I would recommend at this point to not really go much out in public. I would definitely avoid being around someone who has been sick. If you are sick, even if you don’t have the coronavirus, or you haven’t been tested for the coronavirus, you should definitely stay home.” She also emphasizes on the wonders of proper hygiene, “Definitely, wash your hands a lot. Don’t touch any public things, either use your sleeve or grab a tissue or a paper towel. Washing with soap and water is actually best. If you are out in public and if you cough, don’t cough outward. You try to put your mouth up to your sleeve and cough into your sleeve, or into a tissue. They’re all very important tips especially to protect the most vulnerable in our community which is the elderly people that have compromised immune systems and underlying health conditions.”
As someone who has experienced the viral infection, Schneider says she definitely understands the fear and panic of the public. But for her, panic will not take you anywhere good, “Stay calm. Don’t panic. You’re not gonna need rolls and rolls of toilet paper. I can tell you that I did not buy toilet paper once when I was sick. I would also tell you that if you are relatively healthy and you are younger, if you do contract the virus, don’t be scared. There is a lot of fear because it’s unknown. We don’t yet have a vaccine or a treatment, but I am living proof that you can contract the virus, you don’t go to the doctor, and you just recover from self-care.”
The Seattle resident also recommends takeaways from her own experience, “Drink lots of water. Take vitamins. Treat your body well. Get rest. Do things that make you happy. Watch your favorite TV show. Snuggle with your pet. Eat your favorite foods. Treat yourself kindly. Treat yourself nicely. With luck that you are healthy and younger, and your symptoms aren’t severe, you will survive, and know that in case your symptoms are severe, you have a hospital or a doctor available.”
She also sends out simple but encouraging words for people who have acquired the COVID-19, “You will survive. Stay strong. Stay calm. You can do this!”
Just as how she did it, Schneider is living proof that anyone can definitely survive the deadly virus. (contributed by DJ Gabby)