A The Dalles woman shared her COVID survivor’s story recently, saying she’s experiencing significant hair loss, anxiety, insomnia and PTSD after a nearly two-week hospital stay.
The woman, in her 40s, asked not to be named. She recently called North Central Public Health District to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, and mentioned she’d already had COVID.
“It was horrible,” she said. Earlier this year, she’d spent 13 scary, lonely days hospitalized in Portland with COVID pneumonia, most of that time on a BiPAP machine, which is a step down from a ventilator.
But she kept being warned that it might come to that.
She’s getting the vaccine now because she doesn’t ever want to get that sick again. “And with all the different variants coming out I just hope that this will protect me that much more. I know natural immunity is great but you don’t know what this thing will do. It’s nasty.”
She hasn’t tried to convince anybody to get the vaccine, saying it’s a personal choice. But she was willing to share her story “if it helps somebody.”
The after effects of COVID have been brutal. “I’ve lost almost half my hair. And I had really thick hair.” It’s been months now, she said, “and it just keeps coming out.”
Her anxiety, insomnia and PTSD can affect her life in unexpected ways. She recently had to cancel a dental visit because the medical machinery there was just too overwhelming.
She also still has fatigue and tiredness. She thinks she might be considered a COVID long hauler “to a point.” But she knows others have worse symptoms.
She credits her faith, a positive attitude, the prayers of her friends, listening to worship music and “a lot of amazing miracles,” for her recovery. She never felt she would die, and never had to go to ICU, but “it was scary.”
In early 2021 she had a bad cold that lingered for months and never fully got better. Then “all of a sudden I got this random dry cough.”
She finally went to the hospital when something “just didn’t feel right. I was in denial that I had it. The fatigueness was unreal. I’ve never experienced that. Just getting off the couch was everything. No energy whatsoever. Your arms felt heavy. Tiredness. I just kept falling asleep at first.”
Then came the insomnia. And anxiety, chills, flu-like symptoms, lightheadedness and diarrhea. She began coughing up phlegm, but she felt the true situation with her lungs was “kind of masked” in a way. “I felt it crept up on you faster than I realized. You don’t know it’s in your lungs because you can’t tell.”
“It was weird to me how quickly it can change.”
In the hospital, her support system saved her. “Knowing that you have that is crucial, because it’s scary. Anxiety-ridden, all by yourself, you can’t have visitors.”
Even those crucial phone calls from friends and family were taxing. “It is a lot of effort to talk and you’re on the breathing machine so it takes time. Sometimes you have to be patient with your loved ones because they don’t have the energy, or they just can’t, or it takes a lot out of them.”
She celebrated each tiny improvement in her oxygen levels. The BiPAP machine, she said, is “brutal on your sinuses. It’s brutal.” Each little win put her a step further from a ventilator.
She doesn’t look at news stories or pictures about people hospitalized with COVID. “I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to know some of that stuff.
“It really messes with you mentally, because it’s scary,” she said. “Just being that sick, nobody wants to be there, nobody wants that feeling.”
There are many options locally to book a vaccine, which is free to everyone. Visit your doctor’s office, or go on a walk-in basis to any local pharmacy, or call North Central Public Health District at 541-506-2600 to book an appointment. Wasco County residents get a $50 VISA card for the first dose.
(For more information, please visit COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon, contact North Central Public Health District at (541) 506-2600, visit us on the web at www.ncphd.org or find us on Facebook.)