Nursing homes tend to get a lot of visitors around the holidays, said Katie, a state-tested nursing assistant who works at a nursing home.
“It’s kind of a time where we do end up losing a couple of residents just from the germs coming in,” said Katie, which is not her real name. The Brookfield Township resident asked not to be identified out of fear of reprisal by her employer.
This year, that “losing a couple of residents” she talked about “never really stopped, and it was much more people than we normally have pass,” she said.
The symptoms of what came to be identified as the COVID-19 coronavirus “were kind of similar to what we were seeing, but being in a nursing home a lot of people show those exact symptoms all the time,” Katie said. “It’s kind of hard to differentiate.”
She concluded “something’s going on” when she saw a resident “go from being OK to a full they need help right now.”
The coronavirus hit her nursing home hard, both the patients and the staff, and Katie contracted it.
It started with a sore throat, “which I don’t typically get, even when I get colds,” Katie said. Later in the day, she developed a fever, which topped out at 101.
The next day, she felt better, but her children ran fevers.
The kids got over it in two or three days, but Katie did not. She developed a headache that she said felt like she had whiplash.
promo“I had that headache for almost 13 days straight,” she said of the three-week ordeal. “Two days, I just couldn’t get out of the bed. It was like you couldn’t have your eyes open.”
Some days, the headache was the worst symptom she had. Other days, it was a cough.
“When you did have it (cough), your lungs just burnt so bad, like you’ve had a hacking cough for two weeks, and that was from the first time you coughed,” she said. “Very painful. Very painful.”
An older adult who lives with them also got sick, forced to bed for a couple of days, but luckily their worst days did not coincide, so someone was always able to look after the kids, Katie said.
There were no treatment suggestions other than to drink fluids and try Tylenol in hopes of easing the headache and the fever. Tylenol didn’t work, so she abandoned it after two days, she said.
“Pretty much, you have to let it run its course,” Katie said.
Each day, she was able to speak to a doctor, who could have admitted her to a hospital immediately if she had developed breathing problems or otherwise gotten worse.
“That was at least comforting, knowing there was already a plan in place if I wasn’t able to take care of this at home,” she said.
“I woke up one day, the headache was gone, the cough was gone, my throat didn’t feel sore and it seems like they just kind of vanished, just like that, and yet, the day before, I had been feeling the worst I felt,” she said.
Katie was the only one in her household to be tested,. “They are more or less saying once someone in the household has it, you need to assume that the rest of them do, because they’ve already had contact with me before I even started showing symptoms,” she said.
Now, feeling well for nearly a week, Katie is supposed to return to work soon, when the quarantine period will end, a prospect she said terrifies her.
“While all this was going on, I still had contact with my coworkers, and my entire unit (of patients) has more or less passed away or been in the hospital,” Katie said. “It’s been terrifying knowing that it’s still there. It’s very prominent there, and a lot of my coworkers have been off on quarantine and they’ve had to be tested. I’m terrified, honestly, to go back into work, because I’ve already gotten it there. You’re going right back to the source, hoping that you don’t get it again.”
When she was trained, she was told that she would be around people with infections and diseases. Her job includes bathing and clothing her patients and helping them to the toilet.
“This is something that we’re full hands-on with these people,” she said. “There’s no way to not have them cough in your face. There’s no way to keep them from touching things.”
Katie has picked up illnesses from her patients before, including MRSA, although she never got sick from it.
“This was the most terrifying thing that I encountered,” she said.”For it to happen to me, this has been a very emotional toll.”