I have been an RN at Mather for 33 years. Currently I am the director of nursing for the Transitional Care Unit (TCU). When we started to hear about the new novel coronavirus in February at the safety huddles, it seemed that it was far away. I listened but had no idea of what was to come. By early March we were having meetings and discussing a surge plan to prepare ourselves and our staff for what was to come.
I had developed colitis symptoms by the third week of March. I assumed it was stress and continued to work. The signs and symptoms of COVID at that time were fever, cough and shortness of breath. I met twice a day with my staff, reviewing infection prevention, proper isolations practices, and giving reassurance that we could handle this. Because it is licensed as a nursing home, the TCU was closed to visitors and all unnecessary personnel. We donned masks and created a log to record the temperatures of anyone working with patients, along with a questionnaire regarding symptoms. We felt prepared and safe.
On Monday, March 23 I came to work, took my temperature, and it was normal, no symptoms. I worked 6am to 4pm but while preparing to leave for the day, I began to feel ill. My temperature was 99.9. I drove home, showered, took Advil and drank a large mug of tea. At 6pm my temperature was 100.2 and the body aches had set it. I spoke to my Chief Nursing Officer Marie Mulligan who told me to go to the ER and be tested. I prayed for the flu, but testing revealed I was flu negative and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) negative. My chest X-ray revealed pneumonia. I was swabbed for COVID and sent home to await the results.
On Thursday, I received the positive result. I had a five-minute pity party and then continued my day. The first six days I was febrile and had body aches but had some moments when I felt almost well. Sunday, I had a good day and thought I was over the worst of it. I awoke early Monday with a 103 temperature, a cough and shortness of breath. Tuesday the shortness of breath had gotten worse and I returned to the ER. The chest X-ray showed mild improvement of my pneumonia, but my oxygen levels were low. I was started on an antibiotic and went home. That afternoon, feeling worse, I returned and was admitted to 3 North. I was placed on oxygen and additional medications. The five days on 3 North were a blur of no appetite, nausea, no taste, loss of smell, high fever, extreme exhaustion and an overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear.
On day four on 3 North (day 13 of the temperature), my temperature finally broke. I spent one more day and was released home on oxygen. Unfortunately, when I got home my husband was also sick. He was very ill and was in Mather’s ER and admitted to the CDU (Clinical Decision Unit) on two separate visits. It took me five weeks to return to work. I still do not have my full energy or full voice. My husband, Malcolm, continues to recuperate at home.
The staff was wonderful. They checked with me often, they gave me their time, encouragement and pep talks. They cared for my husband and me at a time when we felt at our lowest. After my discharge, we received many calls and unexpected packages at our door – Gatorade, cough drops, Mucinex, flowers, food, cards and texts to give us best wishes for recovery, all from my fellow Mather employees. I can never express our gratitude or the level of comfort I had knowing how close knit the community here at Mather is and how well we were cared for. Thank you all!