The Effects Of Covid-19 On Regular People, Who Have Been Infected
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that since the pandemic began, 22,102,069 people have been infected by Covid-19, and about 371,084 have died, just in the United States. Globally, the World Health Organization reports that there have been 88,383,771 cases and 1,919,126 deaths, globally.
But the problem with mind numbing statistics like the finding that our planet is confirming nearly 800,000 new cases per day is that it is a very top-down approach, which either overwhelms, depresses or angers readers; or sends them into denial. The local people interviewed for this article are people who might very well be your neighbors.
This article is based almost entirely upon the recollections of people who have survived a Covid-19 diagnosis, and the commonalities of their experiences. Some got off with mild cases, have watched their loved ones go through the disease and some nearly lost their lives.
“What it felt like was having bronchitis and the flu at the same time,” Christy Corkin, of Chelsea, told the Sun Times News.
HOW THEY GOT IT
Some people believe they got the virus at work. A paramedic living in Ann Arbor named Emma believes she got her 10-day long, mild spell with Covid-19 from an asymptomatic patient, in November. Corkin believes she got the virus at work.
Some people believe they got the virus from family members or friends. “Suzie”, a York Township resident who asked the Sun Times News to give a false name to speak confidentially, suspects she got her case that way.
Some people believe they got the virus while traveling. Herald “Kenneth” Martin of Saline believes he got it on the plane ride home from California, early in the pandemic. Dexter resident Ron Stairs believes he picked up the virus on a trip to a casino.
A lack of general coordination has resulted in a scattershot network of testing and results. A lack of medical and testing supplies and coordination meant that testing was also significantly delayed. Corkin said received her test within a day. Stairs was at work when he found out that his girlfriend had Covid at the end of October.
“By this time I had had some weird things happen with my senses,” Stairs said. He added that his senses weren’t “gone, but dulled down and I had also developed cold like symptoms.”
Despite associating this with the changing seasons, he got tested at a drive through at a local CVS two days later. It took a whole day to get a positive diagnosis back.
“I didn’t think much of it until my senses started to disappear,” Stairs said. “I could taste nothing and smell nothing. I probably could’ve eaten the worst thing in the world and it wouldn’t’ve mattered.”
One York Township resident never received a test, but believes she did get sick because her symptoms all matched Covid-19. On the condition of anonymity, we will be referring to her as “Jaclyn,” which is not her real name.
WHAT IT IS LIKE
Stairs said he never did get a fever, but self-isolated after receiving his positive diagnosis. He spent his illness weeks at home with a stuffy nose, coughing and lost his smell and taste. He didn’t get his shortness of breath until the third week. Corkin had more serious symptoms.
“One thing no one talks about is when you get the fluid in your lungs, the weight of your lungs pushes on your other organs and it is a very strange sensation. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling,” Corkin said.
The people interviewed for this article also had to take care of the people they are living with. Stairs had to use alcohol wipes on everything he touched and remain separate form his daughter, who lives with him. Corkin sent her son to his father’s house and used wipes all over her house. Emma’s room mate had to get a hotel. “Jaclyn” had to move to a vacant property her family owns to avoid infecting her two roommates.
“I didn’t get as sick as some of these people that are laying in the hospital and fighting every day for their lives. I was fortunate,” “Suzie” said.
Some other interviewees like “Jaclyn” and Stairs were all lucky enough to get fairly mild cases of the disease. Herald “Kenneth” Martin of Saline was not so lucky. He earned the name the "Fiesty Fighter" while taking 81 days to recover at St. Joe's Hospital last spring. Having already survived two open heart surgeries, he spent weeks in bed.
His situation became desperate enough that doctors were forced to put in a feeding tube, and oxygen. Martin was so out of it that he hardly remembers anything from his time there. He doesn’t even remember having to be restrained because when he did regain semi-consciousness, he kept pulling out the tubes that were keeping him alive.
Entire careers are going to be spent in the coming decades, studying and treating the psychological effects of Covid-19. Whether it was the fear of not being able to breathe, or the fear of the constantly overloaded hospitals, or isolation.
“I didn’t realize how lonely it would be,” Emma said.
Emma’s 10-day illness happened over Thanksgiving. Her mother, Denise, told the Sun Times News that the worst part was bringing her daughter a part of the Thanksgiving dinner she had made.
Like several people interviewed for this article, Emma was fortunate to have a network of people who would check up on her frequently and bring her food and other necessities. Their Thanksgiving had been already planned to happen earlier because of her work scheduled as a paramedic. When Denise dropped off the food at her daughter’s house, Emma wanted to see her. So her front door was open, but the screen door was closed as she watched her mother bring the food up onto her porch.
“She was sitting in the dark, down the hall, with a mask on,” Denise said. “I didn’t sleep for days. And I couldn’t get that vision of her, sitting in the dark with a mask on, out of my vision.”
And two of the most noticeable symptoms of course is a loss of taste and smell. After feeling sick for so long, and looking forward to her mother’s Thanksgiving cooking, Emma brought the food inside and sat down for dinner.
She took a bite – and couldn’t taste anything.
Fatigue, the loss of the senses of smell and taste, and other long term medical implications that will continue to come up one at a time. Despite not being contagious, multiple people said they still aren’t 100 percent. Stairs said that he still has only recovered about three-quarters of his pre-Covid sense of taste and smell. Corkin says she’s only gotten 40 to 60 percent of hers.
The further consequences of Covid-19 are still not known.
Every illness is different. “Jaclyn,” for example, had a mild case of what she suspected was Covid-19. But having gone through it, she said “I think it’s pretty unprecedented. Never have we quarantined healthy people. I understand the at, risk, the sick or people who have had contact with the sick. In my opinion, it feels like fear has caused us to give up a lot of our rights and our freedoms.”
“I haven’t fully formulated my thoughts on it, but it feels like we have given up a lot and there isn’t a lot to gain from this. I don’t think it did us a lot of favors, having the degree to which we were isolated and quarantined. I think more bad came from it than good,” “Jaclyn added. “There’s physical health, but there’s also mental health and other things that weren’t considered. I think more people suffered from isolation and quarantine then benefited.”
The State of Michigan estimates that 519,082 Michiganders have had confirmed Covid-19 cases so far, and another 43,471 had probable cases. Lansing suspects that 790 people who have died may have had Covid-19, on top of the 14,145 Covid-19 linked deaths that have been confirmed.
The perception of the seriousness and contagiousness of the virus has become highly political in the last year. Partisan divisions have rained high during multiple state shutdown orders both in Michigan and elsewhere. Michigan’s high numbers hit a peak over the holiday season, and have generally gone down since then.
Others, like “Suzie” Emma, Corkin and Denise expressed frustration with people who play down the seriousness of the disease. Stairs said he didn’t take it seriously, one way or another.
Corkin said that people tend to step back and pull their face masks up further when she meets them, despite no longer being contagious.
“It really upset me when others don’t take Covid seriously,” Corkin said.