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PDH health care provider shares her COVID symptoms and remedies

Editor’s note: This is the story of a health care provider who works at Plumas District Hospital. She tested positive for COVID-19, but is not included in the Plumas County case count, because her primary residence is in El Dorado County. She agreed to share her story so that others could learn from her coronavirus experience and what she did to fight it. She declined to be named out of privacy concerns for herself and others who travel to work at the hospital. She is a woman in her mid-40s, who, for the purposes of this story, will be called Mandy. Plumas News conducted a phone interview with her Sunday, July 26, roughly a month after her first symptoms and diagnosis.

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

It was a typical Monday morning, June 29, when Mandy took a bite of a nectarine while driving to work at Plumas District Hospital. “That’s strange,” she thought. “I can’t taste it.” Nor could she taste her strong espresso coffee.

She called the hospital to report what she knew could be a symptom of coronavirus, and was told to come in and she would be assessed. Staff met her at the entrance to the emergency room where she was screened, tested, and sent home to await her results. Late that afternoon, she received the news: Positive.

Mandy at that time had no fever, no cough, no chest congestion — none of the classic symptoms — except for the lack of taste and extreme exhaustion. She had fallen asleep as she awaited the results in her studio apartment in Quincy, and didn’t realize it until the phone rang.

Mandy works seven days “on” at the hospital (she works a shift, and is on call 24 hours) and seven days off. On her off days she resides in South Lake Tahoe and that’s where she headed when she received the news. Because her primary residence is in El Dorado County, Plumas County handed her case off officially to that county, but local staff remained in contact with her. “I had everyone checking on me,” she said. “There was lots of communication.”

Once home, she prepared to battle the virus. She said the unsettling part of this disease is that its progression can vary so widely. During the worst of it, she wrote a will of sorts.

Mandy called a friend and asked him to go grocery shopping for her. Her list included: veggies, fruit, garlic, fresh ginger, tissues, orange juice, green juices, Echinacea, soup, oatmeal, a thermometer … which he left on her front porch.

Her freezer already contained her favorite remedy — “homemade flu soup” — a bone broth made with onions, fennel, thyme and garlic.

“I went ‘full hippie,’” she said of her approach to fighting the virus. She downed elderberry syrup every three hours and copious amounts of garlic (both cooked and raw) and drank lots of juices infused with fresh ginger.

“I did the silver,” she said, as well as Vitamins D and B, fish oil, zinc, spirulina, calcium and matcha green tea. (A supplement that she used — ACF Buried Treasure — included the zinc, silver and more.) She also used Mucinex to relieve congestion in her lungs and sucked on Smith Brothers lozenges.

When asked if ingesting all of the vitamins, supplements and other items bothered her stomach, she just laughed and said,  “I have an iron stomach,” and then named some of the countries that she has visited and the odd foods that she has eaten. In addition, during her three-year stint in the Navy, she took the SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training required for those going behind enemy lines, which led to her eating some interesting things — also without issue.

As a healthcare provider Mandy is used to charting, and she logged her own symptoms to view their progression.

The Monday onset came with the losses of taste and smell, ear ringing and extreme fatigue.

On day two, those symptoms persisted and then came the body aches. “I woke up with the most excruciating pain in my hips and legs,” she said. She also noted that her temperature was 96.3 degrees. (She never recorded a high fever. In fact her temperature dropped to the 96-degree range for a few days before moving into the 97-degree range.)

Wednesday, after taking some pain relievers, she slept for 13 hours.

By Thursday, she had a little more energy and described having a “tiny bit of taste.”

On Friday she had a little more energy, but developed a slight cough. She could smell cinnamon and hot sauce.

But by “Saturday, I couldn’t get off the sofa,” she said. She used a neti pot (a device to clear sinuses) and slept all day.

Sunday she rebounded. “I felt good, could taste better.”

Monday she was exhausted. “I tried walking my dog, but could only go three doors down,” she said.

After that setback, she began to slowly improve and recover her energy. (Many who contract coronavirus say that the trajectory to recovery is not linear; that it tracks up and down — just as Mandy experienced.) As her initial symptoms began to resolve, her respiratory issues emerged with a slight cough that persists. While she considers herself one of the lucky ones with fairly mild symptoms, she doesn’t want to experience this again.

Darker moments

When asked if she had been scared, Mandy admitted that she had been at times. She had read the stories of people who seemingly improved only to crash and need hospitalization. She put some of her personal affairs in order — ensuring her mother would be cared for and developing a plan to send her friends to some of her favorite places around the globe.

While she didn’t experience the delirium and hallucinations that some virus victims do, she did admit to “fuzzy thinking.”

During her illness she relied on a website for healthcare workers with coronavirus and on her friends who continued to put food on her doorstep and take her dog for long walks.

Immunity

Now that Mandy has had the virus, she is curious about her immunity. To date, available research has shown that immunity might not last for more than a few months and that worries her.

The lab director at Plumas District Hospital has taken an interest in her case and is drawing Mandy’s blood on a regular basis to test it for types and levels of immunity.

Mandy is also participating in a study for antibodies being conducted at Renown Medical Center in Reno.

Where did she get it?

Mandy points to three times when she thinks it could have been possible. “I was a little lax with the mask on June 20 and 21, and 23,” she said, explaining that the first two days she was at the beach trying to social distance, and on the latter she attended a patio lunch with friends. “I wore a mask until my food came,” she said, and as far as she knows, she didn’t pass it to anyone else.

She knows contracting the virus depends on level of exposure, and though she still isn’t sure where she contracted it, she suspects it was during one of those three occasions.

Final thoughts

Mandy is back at work and her energy level has returned. She is extremely grateful for all of the health care professionals from El Dorado and Plumas who checked in on her during her illness, as well the staff at Plumas District Hospital. “Plumas (the hospital) has the most supportive people,” she said and described all that they did to ensure that she continued to be paid and that her symptoms improved.

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