Faces of COVID-19, part 1

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“I’ll be honest,” a message I got on Facebook insisted, “I was one who thought it was being blown out of proportion…‘til I got it.”

I’m calling the person who sent me this message, “Ann.” She doesn’t want to go public because she is afraid it will hurt her professionally. “Ann” lives in Westmoreland and is her 40’s and has children. She is also a COVID-19 survivor.

“Before this, I didn’t understand how a virus could shut the country down,” she says.

Then, her two elderly parents were diagnosed. Her father was disoriented and confused. Her mother went from pneumonia to coughing up blood. “Ann” couldn’t help them because she had to quarantine in her bedroom. She told her husband and children to stay six feet away and to wipe everything down. One day she felt tired, and she had a dry cough, the next morning, she woke up drenched in sweat with a one-hundred-and-one-degree temperature. 

“My lungs felt like I was inhaling hot air,” she recalls. 

She says that while she was sick, it felt like she could never catch her breath. That was months ago, but when we talked on the phone Friday, she still had to take pauses several times. 

“When I talk, I have to take deep breaths,” she explained. “If I go upstairs, it’s like an hour of exercise. Walking to the end of the driveway feels like walking a mile.”

“Ann” still has mysterious muscle twitches. Doctors don’t know why she still has these symptoms. It’s is all so new.

“It irritates the [expletive] right out of me when people say, ‘I’m not going to wear my mask, it’s fake,’” she said incredulously.

“Ann,” told me how she was shopping in a large wholesale club, and an unmasked woman was coughing. 

I asked her what she did. 

“We hightailed it out of there,” she said. 

During these interviews, the people I spoke to mentioned experiences in several area stores. I omitted the names of those stores because since this began, and especially since the beginning of summer, I have noticed shoppers in almost every store I have been in either not wearing a mask or wearing it improperly. 

Sections 201 and 206 of the Public Health Law, and Executive Order 202.14, Title 10 of the Codes, Rules, and Regulations of the State of New York, pursuant to the authority vested in the Commissioner of Health by Sections 201 and Section 206 of the Public Health Law, and Executive Order 202.14, Title 10 (Health) of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules, and Regulations of the State of New York states that any person who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance. It also says that business operators and building owners and those authorized on their behalf shall deny admittance to any person who fails to comply with this section and shall require or compel such persons’ removal. 

But we all know that those laws and regulations aren’t always obeyed.

I asked “Ann” what she thought about that.

“Don’t be a jerk about it,” she answered. “Consider other people. Don’t be selfish. Don’t get upset when store employees ask you to put on a mask. It’s their job. It’s about safety. It’s not a political thing.”

I waited while she paused to catch her breath.

“My lungs just aren’t the same,” she concluded.

Brian Miller represents the 101st district, which includes part of Oneida County, in the New York State Assembly. He’s never had the flu, so when he started having flu-like symptoms in late March, he initially asked people for advice.

Then those symptoms got worse. His wife insisted he go to the Emergency Room on March 23. Two days later, he was in a medically-induced coma and on a ventilator. Assemblyman Miller was in that condition for thirteen days. 

He told me he doesn’t remember anything from that time. He remembers going into the hospital, then looking through the Intensive Care Unit windows to the nurses. After the ventilator, he was on 50 liters of oxygen. Almost two weeks had passed.

“That’s the foggy part,” he told WUTQ’s Talk of the Town in an appearance on Aug. 13. 

“Dealing with the symptoms is one thing, but the aftermath is [what] we don’t know enough [about],” Rocco LaDuca asked him “what impact it had on [his] strength or ability to walk.”

“The effects of the virus and just laying there, I couldn’t take three steps,” Miller said. 

He started an exercise program while he was still in the hospital. This was followed by weeks of rehabilitation in Sitrin.

“I’m an old jock,” he laughed. “I’m a pretty stubborn guy. My breath is back, probably 85%, 90%. But, I had to work very hard for my breath to come back. Forty-five minutes at a time, three times a day. He lost 50 pounds during the ordeal. 

He describes himself as more health-conscious now. He exercises regularly, eats better, and says that he has learned not to take anything for granted. 

I asked him if there was any message he wanted me to share with readers.

“These masks are not political; they are a matter of life and death,” he answered emphatically. “If we want our economy and life back to normal, we have to conquer this virus. We have to crush it. That’s what we have to do.”

He thought for a minute and added, “…and then who knows if mutations might start.”

Randy Walker and his sons, Logan and Devin, were among the first people in Westmoreland to become sick with COVID-19.

“At the time, I didn’t know what it was,” he told me in a phone interview. “I had an upper respiratory infection, a cough, difficulty breathing.”

His sons Logan and Devin are middle school students at Westmoreland Jr./Sr. High School. Devin was sick for two weeks.Logan was sick for almost a month. 

“He couldn’t take a few steps without having to sit down,” Randy said. “The doctors didn’t know what it was. They said, ‘we just know it’s not the flu.’”

Randy Walker didn’t know it was COVID-19 until he tested positive for the antibodies in late May. His children were fully recovered, but he wasn’t and still isn’t. He went back to his doctor in June. 

“It’s still a good half hour after I wake up before I can take a full breath,” he says. “I use the inhaler. Sometimes I have to take a shower [to open up my breathing].”

Randy thinks it’s strange that he and his two sons experienced the virus differently. 

“It’s weird how so many people have so many different symptoms,” he observed. “Some people are saying it reactivates virus in the past. Some people got chickenpox over again. Some people are getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”

I asked him if he had any message he wanted me to help him get out to my readers.

“This isn’t a scam or the hoax that everybody thinks,” he said. “[They have to] take this seriously.”

Randy wears a mask at work, and anywhere it is required in public. 

“I’m glad I’m better,” he says. Then added, “But, I’m not anywhere where I was when I got it.” 

Annette Martina of Westmoreland went to the hospital on July 19. She says before that, she was practically “paralyzed on the floor.” She lay right next to an air conditioner because she would get so hot. Then her fever would break, and she was so cold she would cover up in blankets. 

She vomited so profusely and so often that dipping her finger in a glass of water and drinking the drops caused her to throw up mucous, then bile. 

When she was taken by ambulance to the hospital, they described her as “dryer than a potato chip.” 

She received excellent care while she was in Room 5 at Rome Memorial Hospital. It’s a good thing, her husband Charlie ended up there too. 

I will have Charlie and Annette Martina’s story in my next column, which will be in the digital edition of the Clinton Record, online at Romesentinel.com/Clinton-Record/ on Thursday, Aug. 27. How has the virus impacted you? Share your COVID-19 stories with me at Facebook.com/BeMoreWestmo or Twitter.com/RonKlopfanstein

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