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Everyone who gets COVID-19 gets a slightly different sickness. Influenza it is not, it’s far from anything like the common cold. In contrast to these well-known viruses, this novel coronavirus doesn’t present with a standard set of symptoms in every case. For some, it’s a scratchy throat, others struggle to breathe properly, yet others get diarrhea, and many report a loss of the sense of taste and smell. The majority of people come down with a fever and suffer from a fatigue that leaves them bedridden for days.

As broad as the symptoms are, they all have one thing in common: COVID-19 doesn’t care who you are, what you earn, what you look like. No matter your age, social and economic standing, background, sexuality, race, or nationality, you can still get struck by the coronavirus. Amanda Capritto gathered the stories of some people who’ve come out the other side of corona, for an article that originally appeared on cnet.

Know your facts

We’re not here to freak you out, but rather to show you the real-life experiences of those who have been there. Hopefully, these stories will demonstrate the seriousness of the pandemic and push you to obey your local public health guidelines like shelter-in-place, if you’re not already. One big take home should be that no matter how healthy you are, you can still get extremely sick.

Parisienne woes

Olivia, who didn’t want to give her family name, was studying in Paris, thousands of miles from home, back in January. Her flight back to the US landed on Sunday, March 15 and by the following Tuesday, it seemed she was coming down with a cold. 

“I thought nothing of it and figured it was from the travel since the only symptoms I had were congestion and a headache,” Olivia explained to Capritto. “The next day, I started feeling worse, but still hadn’t shown any of the major signs of [the coronavirus] until I woke up at 3 a.m. Thursday morning and I was running a 100.2 fever.” 

There was quick progress in the symptoms from then. Olivia got flu-like symptoms; achy body, chills, very bad fatigue, and a fever that hit 102 degrees. Somewhere between the Tuesday when she first felt run down, and the next Thursday, her sense of smell and taste went, and hence had no appetite.  

On Saturday, March 21 Olivia got tested for COVID-19. “I started to feel better over the next couple of days; my fever broke, and I was able to get up and move around and started to feel like myself,” Olivia explains. Only the lack of smell and taste and a bit of congestion hung around for a while.   

“Now, just a little over two weeks since I started seeing symptoms, I consider myself to have completely recovered,” she enthuses. “I remained quarantined the entirety of my two weeks being sick and maintained limited contact with my family as well.”

A cough gets out of hand

Freelance writer Lauren Rowello says hindsight has shown her that the first symptom in her home was her children getting a minor cough. Nothing seemed to be too serious; her younger child had a fever for a day.  

“I vaguely remember my spouse also coughing and not feeling great, but that seems like so long ago,” she explains. “We’re in New Jersey. My spouse commutes a few times per week to NYC and travels throughout the US for work as well,” she says, believing that it was her husband who brought coronavirus into the home.  

Rowello had no idea she was infected with COVID-19 until the minor cough she’d had developed into pneumonia. It went from a normal cough to her hacking and wheezing with mucus coming up whilst she was struggling to catch her breath. The change happened in just a few days.  

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between pneumonia and bronchitis, so Rowella has to go get a chest x-ray. “I should have followed the trail of symptoms and illness through my house, but I didn’t expect any of it to be a big deal – especially since everyone else dealt with it so easily,” she notes. “The severity of my symptoms seemed to come out of nowhere and progressed so fast that I didn’t have much time to react to them.”

Steroids were prescribed by her doctor, intended to treat her inflamed lungs and to control her overwhelming immune response. There were other medications that were given to assist her in breathing. After three weeks from her initial symptoms, the cough is still there, although not so bad, and she’s still fatigued.  

“I’m mostly back to normal – working, cooking and doing some child-rearing again – but I’m constantly exhausted and still dealing with some breathing issues,” says Rowella. “I’m still taking multiple medications to assist with that.”

Tired for a month

Four weeks after developing coronavirus symptoms, Dr. Tracy Gapin is still not back to top form. 

The board-certified urologist and men’s health specialist was watching TV with his wife one Friday night in early March. From nowhere, he started to get “shaking chills”, his skin started to hurt and his fever was running at 100.  

Things didn’t get any worse than that for Dr. Gapin, luckily. A few nights leading up to the chills, he’d woken up with night sweats a few times, which he believes are linked to the virus. At the time, they were ignored because there was sign of any other problems.  

His fever lasted a day, his respiratory system remained normal and functional; no cough, no wheeze, no mucus goo sitting on his chest.  

Interestingly, and unfortunately, Dr. Gapin has been coping with fatigue that’s intense and is persisting. “This isn’t simply being tired,” he explains, “but it’s a dense brain fog that has really limited my cognitive function… I’ve had to take multiple naps on some days to get through the day.”

Even with this tiredness, he still feels lucky to have only experienced generally mild symptoms. Dr. Gapin is convinced that his life before coronavirus is what saved him from anything worse. He works on optimizing immunity and preaches the same to his patients.   

“Every aspect of my health was really a big part in my getting over this virus,” he says. “Immune optimization, hormone health, nutrition, fitness — all of it is important.” 

Dr. Gapin finds it interesting that his wife, two kids, and mother-in-law who’s 70-years old, didn’t develop any symptoms that suggest they had COVID-19. His best guess is that they are all carriers who don’t show any symptoms, a clear reminder that not everyone who’s infectious with coronavirus will know it.

Tweeting through the disease

There are whole swathes of people who’ve suffered from COVID-19 sharing their stories and symptoms online. Everyone has a different motivation to share their story, whether it’s about educating the public, highlighting the risks everyone faces, or to show people why they should stay home. We’ve gathered a list of coronavirus stories of recovered patients who posted their experiences online. Take them how you choose. 

Doctors and those studying coronavirus, say that the worst cases of COVID-19 are generally found in older people and those who are immunocompromised. However, a woman of just 22 shared a rather harrowing experience of suffering through coronavirus.

It’s not unknown for young and healthy people to get infected with coronavirus, even though most cases affect those who have compromised immunity. A 31-year-old reporter tweeted his full experience and recovery from the disease.

No matter how healthy you are, you can still get struck down by coronavirus. A historian shared their take on life with COVID-19 through Twitter.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s brother is CNN host Chris Cuomo and contracted COVID-19. He’s shared how he’s experiencing his time “fighting the beast” pretty much every day from his basement. At the moment, he’s still in the grips of the infection and is getting a fever, sweats, difficulty breathing, terrible fatigue, and even hallucinations.

Get to grips with COVID-19

Dr. Michael Hall is a physician who is responsible for the formation of a working relief group with the World Health Organization and Third Wave Volunteers, working to fight coronavirus in the southern states of the US along with the Caribbean. He explains that the virus is protein-based. 

“It displays in each individual a myriad of signs and symptoms,” the doctor says. “It’s very stealthy and takes two to 14 days after exposure to display signs of infection.” When the disease begins, it’s “quite profound and very pathologic,” he says and observes that losing the sense of smell, called anosmia, is really common in patients.

It’s worth noting that other symptoms include a congested nasal passage that can cause headaches, a dry cough that tickles the throat and is persistent, and a fever. Hall also counsels that having an upset stomach that leads to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are other noted symptoms. 

As a clinician who’s treated COVID-19 positive patients, Dr. Hall thinks that the illness lasts a weirdly long time, and when it does persist lots of patients describe a feeling of “lung burn”. It feels something like breathing at really high altitudes.  

As a global collective, we’re still racing to catch up with COVID-19. The advice and guidelines that different public health bodies and governments give are changing nearly every day and that change will continue as we understand the virus more. 

To get the up-to-date information and guidance about coronavirus, check out the WHO website.

This article doesn’t constitute medical advice and is only to be used for information and education. Check with a qualified healthcare provider if you have any specific questions or worries about your health.

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