By Debra Moore
“Hi, I’m number three,” said the voice on the other end of the phone.
Until that phone call, all that most Plumas County residents knew about the third case of COVID-19 in Plumas County, is that an Indian Valley resident tested positive April 4.
Now, No. 3 has a name: 71-year-old Linda Hill, a longtime employee of Family Court Services in Quincy — and that’s where she suspects she contracted the virus.
“I was in the office alone and a woman came in … she was so sick … she looked like she should be in the hospital,” Hill said during a July 23 interview. “She was coughing and coughing. I backed away.”
This was early March, when COVID was still in its early stages, before the governor’s stay-at-home order went into effect. The woman had asked for a list of local attorneys and then left hurriedly. Hill said that she was so shaken by the woman’s state that she walked over to the courthouse to see if she had been there as well. The sheriff’s personnel who screen people at the front door did not recall seeing her.
Hill said she wasn’t sure where the woman came from since people come all over, including Reno and Chico, visit Family Court Services to obtain information on child custody and other issues. But that woman made an impression.
“A few days later I felt off,” Hill said. Other people in her office had been sick earlier in the winter, and Hill said she experienced a few symptoms then, but this was different. “At 71 I know when something feels different.”
She experienced fatigue and listlessness, but hadn’t really started thinking about COVID. Until that time she had been going to work and interacting with people. She wasn’t experiencing the classic symptoms of high fever and cough (the symptoms most discussed at that time).
Then she started having trouble breathing, and decided to take what she uses to treat her Lyme Disease — colloidal silver. “I take it when I get flareups for Lyme,” she said. Her breathing plateaued — it didn’t get noticeably better, nor did it get worse.
“During the third week I got up and did some things that I hadn’t been able to do,” Hill said. Though she couldn’t do her normal workout (which is one to two hours a day), she did move around the house and used her inversion table. That evening she took a shower, thinking that she had turned the corner.
Then it suddenly changed. “I couldn’t breath; I could not get air and I started blacking out,” she said. “I ran outside on my covered porch and put my head between my legs, and I caught one breath. Then another.”
She didn’t call 911 because she lives rather remotely and knew help wouldn’t arrive in time. With her breathing stabilized she went to bed that night, but in the morning called her doctor and a test was arranged.
Hill drove to the Indian Valley Medical Clinic and waited in her car as instructed until Dr. Ross Morgan came out. He took her temperature and checked her oxygen level, which was at 90 percent. While he was skeptical, he said, “The nurse thinks you have it,” so he administered the test. Two days later he called, “Your COVID test came back positive.”
“He said I could go to the hospital, but they were sending people at the time to St. Mary’s, and I decided to stay home,” she said. She had stocked up on supplies during her last trip to town, and people were delivering food to her porch.
In addition to the fatigue and the shortness of breath, Hill said that one of her other symptoms was smelling a strong chemical odor. “I never lost my sense of taste or smell like some people do, but I kept smelling this strong chemical smell,” she said. Since she uses all natural cleaning products she put vinegar, baking soda and boiling water down the drains, but it didn’t help.
Nearly four months later, breathing continues to be the most persistent symptom. The recent fires and smoke have exacerbated the problem. “A couple of weeks ago was the first time that my lungs didn’t hurt to breath,” she said.
Throughout the ordeal, what worried her the most was that she might have infected someone else during the period that she wasn’t aware she had it. “I was terrified; I could never forgive myself for that,” she said.
She had interacted with people at Safeway, Evergreen Market, work, the courthouse, a deputy at a gas station and bingo. “I called people and did contact tracing myself,” she said. She did it as a precaution, in addition to whatever Public Health was doing.
But her worries might have been in vain. No. 4 was a questionable case in Lake Almanor and then Plumas County had no other positive cases for two months — except for maybe her cat.
Despite being in a high risk group, both due to her age and to her underlying health conditions, Hill survived and is confident that she will recover fully. “I’m going to get over it,” she said. She is considered recovered because she has tested negative, but that doesn’t mean she has beaten all of the symptoms.
Hill attributes her resiliency to being in very good shape at the onset of the disease, taking supplements including B-12, using the inversion table that she believes moved stuff around in her lungs, and taking the colloidal silver.
But she knows what worked for her might not work for someone else, since everyone’s experience is different. She does believe that attitude can help.
“I’m not afraid of dying, but I’m not ready to die,” she said. When asked why she was willing to share her personal story, Hill said she wants to help people. “If someone offered me $1 million or the chance of saving someone’s life, I’d choose the life.”