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Survivors’ Stories

Area residents tell experiences of suffering through COVID-19

What happens when you test positive for the disease?



(October 2020) – The call came early one evening. “Someone in our office has tested positive for Covid-19,” the caller said.
For anyone who receives such a call, questions and concerns immediately loom. Were you exposed? Have you been in contact with that individual within the previous 14 days?
The Jefferson County Health Department in Madison, Ind., does contact tracing after a positive test. “We go back 48 hours from the date of the positive test because that is when an individual is most contagious,” said Tammy Monroe, Administrator.
The patient tells the Health Department the names and dates of anyone they were with during that time period. The follow up with those potentially exposed individuals starts with a phone call to say, “We’ve received a report that you may have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. Your last contact with that person was (date). You need to self-quarantine for 14 days from that date. If you get symptoms, go to a test site. If you have no symptoms, on Day 15 you are free to go out.”

Weilgat


On the other hand, Monroe said there have been cases where an individual tested negative on Day 7 of quarantine, but then did test positive on Day 13 of their quarantine. “It is important to self-quarantine for the full 14 days,” she emphasized. The name of the individual who tested positive remains confidential and is not shared.
“Testing is now readily available for free to anyone who lives or works in Indiana, even without symptoms,” Monroe said. In Madison, Ind., there are plenty of testing opportunities, if needed, including the King’s Daughters’ Convenient Care Clinic and Baptist East Urgent Care Center on Clifty Drive, and downtown Madison at the Senior Center. (No testing is offered at the Jefferson County Health Department.)
Testing is also free in Kentucky at the Three Rivers District Health Department offices in Carroll, Gallatin and Owen counties, according to Christina Perkins, Public Information Officer for the District. “We are also encouraging testing when needed, with or without symptoms,” Perkins said.
Teresa Gamsky, Director of Public Health in Oldham County, Ky., went back to basics with the reminder, “Wash hands frequently, keep social networks small or within your household and wear a mask.”
Free testing is available at the Health Department in La Grange. Public health staff members are working non-stop 12-hour days. Gamsky said she has noticed the shortage of volunteers due to the COVID-19 risks.
Older people have provided the volunteer base for many community services.
“Families without extended family support face tremendous challenges with child-care issues. Individuals out of work are continuing to place huge demands on food banks. Please remember to donate to food banks,” she urged.
Rachel Weilgat, 23, of Charlestown, Ind., knows these challenges first-hand. She is a home-care provider with a local agency. “My COVID-19 experience started with a 103.2 fever and a horrible time breathing,” she said.

Photo provided

Matt Accuardi of Henry County, Ky., contracted COVID-19 while attending a church service.


She was tested on July 7 and again on July 17. On July 25, she was notified that her test was positive. At that time, she was off work and continued to be retested until she finally tested negative on Aug. 6. Since she has other health issues, she was not released to return to work until Aug. 24. During her illness, she received breathing treatments and used a nebulizer and inhalers. She said she was treated with both steroids and antibiotics.
“It felt like a lingering illness after a bad cold. It was definitely worse than the flu,” she said.
During her time off work, she received only one unemployment check. When she applied for COVID-19 relief support, she learned that she was ineligible because she had received unemployment benefits. She could have used the support of the food bank.
“I struggle with asking for help, so I didn’t try to go to the food bank,” she said. “However, a lot of amazing people at my church stepped up and helped me. I did wear a mask, and to my knowledge, I was not around anyone with COVID-19. How did I get it?”
One of the hardest things was dealing with depression. “No people, no hugs, no one to turn to – it was a really hard time. It makes me think of all of the people with no visitors. Many of my clients used to go to programs during the day. Now they are all homebound. They are sad; they don’t understand,” she said.
In spite of all precautions, Matt Accuardi, 55, Turners Station in Henry County, Ky., recently contracted COVID-19 through a contact at his church. That individual had unknowingly been exposed at another event. Accuardi was exposed on a Sunday and started to experience a scratchy throat and mild dry cough by Thursday. He was tested for COVID-19 the following Monday and confirmed positive. His doctor advised him to buy a thermometer and fingertip pulse oximeter at his local pharmacy.
He monitored his temperature and O-2 saturation. He was instructed to go to the hospital emergency department if his fever became higher than 103 or if his O-2 level dropped below 90.
By Friday night, his O-2 level had dropped to 86. His wife took him to the hospital. He was admitted later that night. Steroid treatment helped relieve his symptoms within a few days. He was released on Wednesday to go home to help his wife with the farm. She also had COVID-19 during that time, but she had been able to remain at home.
“Having the normal flu is like being in a fist fight – hard hitting. Having COVID is like being in a wrestling match. The crappy feeling goes on and on,” Accuardi said. He said he would like to find a T-shirt that says, “I’m over it.”
Sandy Daugherty, BSN, was safely working from home in Louisville, Ky., last April. Her husband, Logan, only went to work and back. Their daughter, Cassidy, a Bellarmine University student, was doing online classes at home. After sharing a nice meal to celebrate his birthday, Logan, 55, said he didn’t feel well. His temperature was 102 degrees.
He isolated himself in the basement. Sandy and Cassidy went to a drive-through COVID-19 testing site. The results were apparently lost, but they both soon experienced the symptoms of a cough and dry throat.  One week later, Sandy found herself so exhausted she couldn’t get out of bed. Just walking to the bathroom made her short of breath.
“It was so hard to breathe that I wanted to quit breathing and just die,” she said. “I went to the hospital, feeling afraid that I would be put on a ventilator. I wondered if I would ever come home.”
She was admitted with a fever of 103 degrees and treated with oxygen. The next morning, she felt a little better – the oxygen had helped. Even after she was discharged from the hospital, she continued to use oxygen at home, especially at night. She continued daily video calls with the hospital to monitor her illness. She spent more than a month in bed. It was six weeks before she finally tested negative.

Photo provided

Sandy Daugherty and her daughter, Cassidy, of Louisville, Ky., survived a bout with COVID-19.


For her, COVID-19 was nothing like having the flu. Months have now passed. Logan, who used to do 30 minutes on a treadmill, still gets out of breath if he walks up stairs. For Sandy, some symptoms continue. “I am tired all the time. It drags on and on.” When she sees someone not wearing a mask or not practicing social distancing, she wants to say, “Let me tell you what I’ve been through.”
Marsha Chapman, MSN, RN, Infection Prevention at King’s Daughters’ Health in Madison, Ind., emphasized prompt actions. “If you think you have COVID-19, stay home, isolate from your family. Call your healthcare provider or the COVID-19 Hotline. Do not take vitamins or other over-the-counter medications to try to treat yourself – that’s like poking a sleeping bear,” she said. Each case presents differently for each individual. Cases range from asymptomatic to patients on a ventilator. Every individual’s body is different. 
“It is also really important to get a flu vaccination this fall to avoid getting both the flu and COVID together,” Chapman said.  Pregnant women or mothers with babies less than six months old should consult their physician before getting a flu shot. There is a special vaccine for individuals over 65.
“Ben Franklin said ‘An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure’,” she said. To learn the truth about rumors or online information, use the website www.FactCheck.org.

• For more Indiana or Kentucky information, visit: www.coronavirus.in.gov or www.kycovid19.ky.gov.

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