Recovered Coronavirus Patient In N.M. Urges Public To Get Tested
As of May 14, 5,503 New Mexicans have tested positive for COVID-19, with health care workers among the most likely to be exposed to the virus. Catherine Delaney, a physicians assistant and recovered COVID patient, talked to Your NM Gov host Khalil Ekulona about what it was like to be infected with COVID-19, the rocky road to recovery, and the range of symptoms she, family members and her patients have experienced.
CATHERINE DELANEY: Actually, I had another infection before I got the COVID. I got it in the middle of the other infection. So, I started off with some back pain, but I didn't realize that that was what I had when I started it. Someone else tested positive and when I was talking with them, I realized. And they said because they tested positive, everybody had to be tested.
KUNM: How long did it take to get your results?
DELANEY: 24 hours.
KUNM: 24 hours, okay. What was that waiting like?
DELANEY: That wasn't too bad. And actually, the first part of being sick wasn't bad. I had a little backache. I mean, I had a cough from the other infection that hadn't changed or done anything different from when it first started. Then when I found out I was positive, two days later I developed some shortness of breath with the cough. I got chest pressure and tightness. So, I got really scared, and my oxygen saturation level went from my normal 97 or 95, and dropped down to like 93 to 90. And then, if I lay down it would drop lower to like 89 to 87. So, I kind of freaked out and went to the hospital and was seen. That was scary.
KUNM: What type of treatments did they use?
DELANEY: Actually, they just did a lot of studies. They checked my heart and they checked my blood count to make sure I wasn't too low on my white count, because that's one of the bad effects that can happen with COVID. And then, they monitored my oxygen rates and did some cardiac enzyme levels, which came out fine. Then I was released. I was short of breath for about two days, but a friend of mine whose aunt had died had an oxygen concentrator and she brought it to my house. So when I would start to get freaky I would just put the oxygen on so I would feel better.
KUNM: When did you know that everything was okay?
DELANEY: Because I had the one episode with the shortness of breath that lasted for a while, I started looking up "When are the worst times for having severe reactions?" Somewhere between your seventh and your twelfth day. So I knew if I could make it past that I was okay. And unfortunately, what happens with COVID is you have a bad episode and then you feel better, and then you have another bad episode. So that's what happened to me. I had a second episode where I developed a fever, where I'd never had a fever before. Then I got another episode of the shortness of breath, which lasted for another day and a half. Where you're hooked up to your O2 meter and you're like looking at it the whole time to make sure you're okay. And then after that episode I just progressively got better.
KUNM: So far it's really unclear if people who've had coronavirus can get it again. Do you worry about that since you work in health care?
DELANEY: Yeah. I'm hoping that I will have the immunity. The problem with that is that we won't know for a long period of time. Even with people who get the flu, some people will develop an immunity and some people don't, and they'll wonder, "Why did I get this again?" And so we don't know where we'll be. It's a little nerve-wracking. Particularly since I had the episodes with the shortness of breath.
KUNM: Did having the virus give you any insight on how this could be going better when it comes to treatment, testing or contact tracing?
DELANEY: Now I test anybody who thinks they might have it, might have been exposed to it, or have any type of symptom. I'm testing. Because, you know, the variety of symptoms we had within our own group—one lady had a loss of smell and just a slight cough; one lady just had body aches, and was tired, never had any cough, never had any loss of smell, didn't really run any temperature. She was just tired and had body aches and a little bit of chills. We had very few symptoms. My daughter had a sore throat and a minimal cough. It was just very different from person to person.
KUNM: So you recommend anybody who doesn't feel well at all go get tested?
DELANEY: If you have anything that might come close to a symptom, yeah, I do.
This is an excerpt from a longer interview that originally aired on our show Your NM Government. Catch it every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. here on KUNM, or find it wherever you get your podcasts. Your NM Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS and the Santa Fe Reporter.