27-yr-old Austin teacher, now wheelchair dependent due to COVID-19 induced Guillain-Barre' syndrome.
Updated: Jul 13
Miranda Erlanson on her wedding day with her new husband, Dustin, before the Coronavirus interrupted her life.
Miranda Erlanson, a once healthy 27 year old, English Teacher and runner, (Cedar Creek, Texas)
Miranda's COVID-19 story:
My COVID-19 story began in March. I ran a 13.6 Zooma half marathon with no issues, but during a short 1 mile run a few days later, I vomited stomach acid a few times. I attributed it to the exercise, and I finished the mile at a walking pace. I felt fatigued, but attributed it to exhaustion, and dedication of being a first year public school teacher. Three days later I woke up barely able to breathe; I went to the ER and was diagnosed with an influenza-like illness and bronchitis. (At this time, COVID-19, had barely made its way into the United States)
I requested a COVID-19 test, and was told I tested negative for Corona-viruses. Only later as I reviewed my ER documents, did I realize I had only been tested for old Corona-viruses, and not the new novel virus. I was shocked, as I had been given a false sense of security, but Premier ER has always treated me tremendously well, they just didn’t have the new tests yet, at the time. I went home and after 36 hours I was actually feeling great!
I don’t know for sure where I contracted COVID-19, but I am a teacher, exposed often to illnesses, and my husband, at that time, worked for Kyle Bunting ; a company where luxury carpets are imported from Italy (a known hot-spot for the Coronavirus). My husband, Dustin had randomly thrown up a few times and our three children, Jayden, Brooke and Leah, sometimes had strange new rashes and scratchy throats that came and went quickly.
None of us were tested until June, by which we had no antibodies except T cell immunity, and that sort of test requires an immunologist or geneticist. We have to wait for science to catch up to consumer testing for T cell receptor immunity of COVID, or at least for the U.S. to test the spike protein in order to have more accurate tests. Those tests exist and the United States is not using them! Ortho Clinical, Euroimmun, as well as Diasorin, and Siemens, from the Public Health England Study. The Siemens test used abroad, with 99% sensitivity, outperformed the Abbott test used in the United States, with the worst score of 92.7% sensitivity. Antibody tests are available with a better sensitivity rate than what the United States is using, and due to this, has left people like me in the dark, to be shunned and told our chest wall inflammation is anxiety. (https://www.medtechdive.com/news/siemens-covid-19-antibody-test-beats-rivals-in-head-to-head-study/581366/)
In addition to my chest pain and inflammation, I experienced some electrical zaps in my left wrist, from April to May; it was very sudden and passing and not of much consequence to a suddenly remote teacher. The true nightmare began on June 22nd, when I became nauseous and it all slowly went downhill from there. I was buying pregnancy announcements and matching monogrammed family shirts when it turned out I had a different kind of announcement after all.
In June and July, 4 months after the initial cough, I tested negative 5 times. Premier ER in Bastrop, Texas always took fantastic care of me and due to being a teacher, I was able to be treated without the exorbitant copay. I was treated for dehydration, gastroenteritis, heart arrhythmia, UTI, abnormal heart readings on an EKG/ECG, etc. I have had CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs of most of my body. My medical treatment was compromised due to getting negative test results. I was treated like I was crazy, and all I knew was that we were told not to go to the ER, unless it felt like death was around the corner, so I didn’t seek help until I could feel myself dying. When I finally went to the ER, I was oozing blood from every part of me. I was even turned away without IV fluids from St. David’s South, where I sought help for my dehydration, due to a GI bleed. I was shaking and crying, laying across a sidewalk bench in the 103- degree Texas heat, becoming further dehydrated, while I waited for my husband to come back and pick me up. I did end up with some brain damage, and I wonder if those fluids could have helped. Even some compassion would have helped. I eventually ended up going to the ISOFAC, the isolation facility in Austin, Texas, and was admitted for 10 days. I continued being ill, lost 30 pounds, most of the feeling in my feet, and never recovered. I live like the walking dead.
I was eventually hospitalized, recently, on September 3rd, at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital, and then transferred to Dell Seton at UT Austin, to receive treatment for my new diagnosis of COVID-19 induced, Guillain-Barre' syndrome, for which I did not receive the IVIG treatment, due to the 5 neurologists who suddenly loomed in my hospital room saying that they couldn’t help me, and that my nerve problems were not neurological. They only did blood tests and had no recommendation or plan of treatment. If I look around in a room and I know more about COVID-19, due to my experiences, than every person in the room, then I am in the wrong facility. So I had Dustin again, come to get me and I let them know that I would be leaving. I followed up with my wonderful Neurologist. I also have a Pulmonologist, who says my case is similar to a post-polio patient’s recovery.
Once home, my symptoms progressed as thus: nausea, diarrhea, lower back pain, pelvic cramps, headaches, sore throat, vomiting for 85 days from June on, night sweats, confusion, heart arrhythmia, GI bleed, brain damage, getting lost, forgetting words, adult onset stutter, blurry vision, floaters in vision, GERD, acid reflux, costochondritis, precordial catch syndrome, numbness in half my body, incredible weakness in hands and arms (Guillain Barre' Syndrome), irregular heart fluctuations, low oxygen and heart rate at night, internal trembling that turned into muscle spasms and nerve pain that turned into severe spasms. I am to be tested and monitored for seizure activity. I now have a neuromuscular autoimmune condition, that worsens at night when the immune system is active; it feels like being eaten alive from the inside out.
I didn't lose my sense of taste and smell, until the end of July. At the writing of this story, September 12th, I can taste things again, but I can't smell correctly. When I sniff things that should be pleasant, all I smell is this horrible scent of burning metal or nothing at all. It has been 184 days since my March illness began, 95 days since reinfection in June. (I was at a feed store and grocery store and had a few family members over, but I am quite sure I was re-infected the second I came out of quarantine.)
By the time we knew what we were dealing with, my husband and kids had already been exposed. None of us were tested until late summer. Our antibodies don't show up as antigen, most likely transformed to T cell immunity or possibly worse: we might not have antibodies at all.
I was unable to work remotely and could not get my ADA disability accommodations to be met, after multiple requests with supportive documentation. Zeph Capo, the Vice President of the AFT teacher’s union, heard about my situation and connected me with litigation specialist, Don Welch; who then represented me to work with my Human Resources, while I was ill and needing an early termination of contract. Sadly, every person who I considered to be a close friend, suggested that my illness was anxiety or allergies, or behind my back called my situation made up or exaggerated. I no longer associate myself with toxic people, as only positive vibes can spin the gold of a future. I now work for a local school district as a 7th and 8th Grade English teacher and there has been compassion shown for my situation! Also, there is a clear path for ADA accommodations, and I am a remote teacher!
I still have ongoing chest wall inflammation, pericarditis, motor skills weakness, occasional stutter, a spasming, jerking and twitching nervous system. I am diagnosed also with dysautonomia, and I will soon be checked for seizures with an EEG.
My worse symptom was my throat swelling severely along with becoming allergic to all food. If I eat regular food, I have side effects such as worsening chest wall inflammation. Other equally horrible after-effects are vertigo when I wake up. (This is both nauseating and horrible.) My blood pressure dropping when I stand up, by more than 20 points is not fun. My heart rate randomly increases. going as high as 186 bpm, while I am sitting down at rest. I show abnormal heart readings on ECG/EKG'S. I had severe pelvic cramps, gastroenteritis, and blood exiting and oozing from my body in every possible way.
I have nerve damage in my feet and I am in a wheelchair now and working through physical therapy, which I attend every day. I have a Pulmonologist, Cardiologist, Infectious Disease Doctor, Chiropractor, Gastroenterologist, Esophogeal Disorders Physician, ENT, Neurologist., and a Family Physician Assistant, Dr. Jeri Belyea, who treats me primarily through tele-medicine, from South Oaks Family Medicine. I am so very astronomically thankful for the practice and my supportive care.
I was horribly, terribly alone, until I found the Long-Hauler group on Facebook, and connected with Chelsea Alionar, Candace Taylor, Cynthia Adonig, who is totally my COVID twin, as we share many of the same symptoms, and my all-time COVID Survivor, bestie: Nicole Ricker. Nicole chatted with me all night long, through the darkest days and through the scares, fears, and sobs. We are in constant communication, WE ARE COVID BFFs!
I am a Long-Hauler, and it took months for my doctors to rule everything else out in the world and diagnose me with COVID-19, despite the negative tests 4 months after the initial illness.
Today, I still suffer from ongoing health issues from COVID-19, including partially collapsed lungs, right worse than left (called atelectasis) and I have ground-glass opacities in each lung. In addition, I suffer from COVID PTSD. This virus does devastating things to your body and your mind; what used to be a normal sniffle or headache, can now bring on the fear of relapse, quickly.
The advice that I would give others who have not gotten the Coronavirus are: follow the CDC guidelines and local stay at home orders. Any activity done in a public place, such as to put gas in the car, should be followed by regular and routine hand-washing and sanitizing, per doctors' orders. Stock up on Tylenol and monitor your children for strange rashes, scratchy throats, and COVID- toes. A heating pad, my family, and supportive doctors have also helped a lot. Oh, and.. sleep sitting up, pericarditis is no joke.
In the end, it was my drive to continue to teach that kept me going through the darkest days. I am a bilingual English and ESL teacher. "I wasn't born to just teach. I was born to inspire others. To change people. And to never give up - even when faced with challenges that seem impossible." -unknown author
Taking a "selfie" in Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital,
where I was admitted on September 3rd.
(I couldn't believe I was here)
My "new normal": from running marathons, to
being in a wheel-chair-this is TEMPORARY! I WILL run again...
I felt so free, when I ran....I will have the wind in my hair again, someday soon!
Leaving the hospital with my best friend, and husband,
Our "fur-family members", Stomper and baby Flo.
My family, my life.... Dustin, Jayden, Brooke, Leah and me, our happier, "Pre-COVID-19" days.