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Judy is a 53-year-old mother of two with a 25-year-old son and a 28-year-old daughter. She was also one of the first in Ohio and the very first in Summit County to test positive for COVID-19.
As Ohio opens up businesses and the weather turns warm and sunny during a Memorial Day weekend, Judy shared the intimate details of her brave battle against the disease that landed her in the ICU. (Judy preferred to use only her first name.)
A short time after her 53rd birthday Judy was working a part-time retail job when she began to feel malaise. She can’t be sure about where she contracted the potentially lethal virus, but she was working a lot and wasn’t doing much of anything else or going anywhere, therefore her assumption is that she contracted COVID-19 during one of her shifts.
She went to an urgent care and, after testing negative for the flu, the doctor decided to send her over to the Twinsburg Cleveland Clinic ER. They did a CT scan on her abdomen and a chest x-ray. Judy kept telling them, “This is the sickest I’ve been in my entire life!”
After the CT scan the doctor diagnosed her with potential bacterial pneumonia and told her that she would probably be in the hospital for a couple of days but that it was “no big deal.” It was the beginning of March and there were rumblings about the coronavirus in China but it hadn't yet become a part of daily life here. After some deliberation the doctors decided to give her a COVID-19 test, which involved shoving a long, cotton swab deep into her nasal cavity, in preparation for which the health care professionals came in decked in full P.P.E.
It was just the beginning.
“The funny thing was, timing-wise, the only COVID issues in the states were that there was that cruise ship off of California that they were withholding people coming into port because they had COVID on the ship, but other than that…I wasn’t thinking I had Corona."
Judy’s symptoms were presenting as pneumonia and the doctor showed her the CT scan revealing what she described as “spider webs” in her lungs."
“They moved me into ICU on Saturday the 14th. My breathing and my oxygen saturation levels were dropping…and they diagnosed me. I was pretty much hysterical at that point because I knew how many people I was around, you know family-wise, during the weekend. The guilt of just realizing that, if this was truly COVID and how contagious they had talked about it being, I was pretty devastated that I was feeling that I had just spread this deadly virus to my friends and family…that was pretty traumatic. Then they intubated me on Sunday the 15th…it wasn’t until they put me in ICU that I realized that I could potentially die from this.”
Judy was on a ventilator through the 20th of March when her doctor decided he wanted to try taking her out of sedation to see how her body might respond.
“Four days later they took me off the ventilator and the brought me out of the sedation and told me they were moving me from ICU to an isolation room, quarantine room on another floor. They moved me and I remember a wonderful, wonderful nurse, I remember telling her, pretty much begging with her, 'Please don’t let me die. Please don’t let me die.' I remember her telling me, 'Honey, you know what, you are one of the ones that made it to the other side. You’re on the road to recovery.'”
As to what Judy would say to the medical staff if she could talk to them today.
“This is a hard question because I pretty much owe my life to all of them. I can’t express my gratitude for the level of care I got or for what they did for me and knowing afterword what these doctors and nurses are doing for these patients is just astonishing that they can continue to keep up and work with such sick people…I pray for them every night."
“This COVID doesn’t discriminate, it could happen to anybody. It’s extremely contagious. People need to be serious about this. I would not want anybody that I knew to have to go through what I went through and the isolation or the fact that you don’t have any family members there to comfort you. It was terrifying.
“I had been probably the healthiest I have been in my entire life then. I don’t have autoimmune deficiency disease, I don’t have R.A., I don’t have diabetes, I don’t have any heart issues, I just recently, with the Keto diet, lost like fifty pounds. I was biking, I was pretty good…”
As she watches protests, and society trying to get back to normal, and people packing patios, Judy has some thoughts.
"Social distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands, all those preventative suggestions should really be something that becomes part of your life right now. I hope and pray that there’s vaccine that comes out soon…It’s frustrating to see people that are out there that are downplaying this. I wanted to do this interview to make people aware of how something as serious as COVID-19 can affect people, do whatever you can to protect yourself. If everybody’s wearing masks it’s just another layer of protection. I know how incredibly upset I was to think I could have been spreading something as deadly as COVID-19. I can only imagine that it would be equally as devastating to somebody who didn’t feel it was necessary to wear a mask and they were asymptomatic and they were contagious. I mean obviously I caught it from somebody. This thing is real and I almost lost my life to it."