29 yr-old first-year nurse with COVID, afraid to close her eyes, in fear she would die in her sleep.
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Kesley in isolation during her first go-round with COVID-19
Kelsey Venable, age 29, ER nurse, Delray Beach, Florida
My journey started in late June, shortly after celebrating my first year of being a nurse. (Great timing, right??) I went to work one day with an upset stomach. Thinking it was just something I ate, I continued to work, until a few days later I woke up with no smell or taste. I immediately contacted my manager to get tested at my hospital where I tested positive on June 29th. I had all mild symptoms including a cough, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, dizziness, and body aches. I NEVER get sick, including the flu, and I don’t get fevers so this “flu feeling” was new to me.
I went to rest, recover, and quarantine for two weeks, at home, After my two weeks were up, I felt better (not 100% but better); my job did not require a negative test to come back to work, you only had to be symptom-free for 72 hours and then you were cleared to return to work. I knew that as I would be working around patients and still had slight symptoms, that I should probably test anyway. I went to my local CVS where they have you swab yourself and I was relieved to see it come back negative. I thought the worst was over!!
Here’s the thing: I didn’t listen to my body. I was still having slight symptoms; cough and diarrhea but I wanted to return to work so badly that I ignored any remaining symptoms I was feeling, thinking it would go away. (After-all, I had a negative test and I must just have been having after-effects.)
Everything was fine until my second week back- I showed up to my shift, not feeling right. I felt extremely lightheaded, dizzy, and nauseous but again, I ignored it. I remember taking a report from the day shift nurse when all of a sudden her voice became muffled and everything got blurry. I looked back to find a chair to fall in, but ran into a wall! I felt moments away from passing out. I knew I had to get tested again because something was not right. I checked into my ER to get swabbed, sobbing uncontrollably and so confused as to why I felt so bad again. They tested me and due to my symptoms and almost passing out and the fact that they are my hospital "family", they wanted to admit me. I had received a negative test result at CVS, and I remained steadfast and stood by the "I am negative" thought, and would not let them admit me: I went home to my own bed.
That night was rough. I didn’t sleep at all. The feeling that I felt is both scary and hard to explain: The best way I can try is that I felt like my organs were failing and if I closed my eyes that night I would pass away in my sleep. I even wrote my family a letter just in case that happened. Dramatic? Maybe, but again I never get sick like this so both my physical and mental body were in shock.
On August 4th, I got the results from my ER, that I had tested positive again. Everyone, including myself, was so confused. I had tested negative at the CVS? I had been feeling better? Did I catch It again? Is that even possible? No one had answers and this time around was worse. I had every single symptom you can think of except fever. I couldn’t eat, my body aches were paralyzing, the brain fog was so bad I was having trouble formulating thoughts and sentences at times. My anxiety heightened and I started to suffer what I can only describe as panic attacks. I was having heart palpitations that would literally wake me up from my sleep and I lost 15 pounds. Another alarming symptom was that when I would put my fingers in my hair, strands of my hair would just start falling out in my hands. (Was it all going to fall out??)
One day I felt so weak I went to the hospital to get fluids and check my labs which showed low potassium. My EKG was normal and so was my chest x-ray. I ended up having a bacterial infection in my stomach because I had diarrhea at this point for a month straight, so I took antibiotics which seemed to help plus all the vitamins suggested, as well as probiotics. I was taking Zofran every day for nausea, taking cough medicine, and using an inhaler for when I became short of breath. At the writing of this story, September 24th, I have been out of work now for 6 weeks, trying to rebuild my strength and energy.
I had been one of those people that thought if I got COVID-19, I would be either asymptomatic or I would have maybe one or two mild symptoms and bounce right back. (I was young and healthy, right? I was NEVER sick) Being in a high-risk environment like the ER, seeing COVID patients every day, I figured it would happen eventually but that I would be okay and boy was I wrong. I have good and bad days which is exhausting. I have days where I wake up and think, I’m finally starting to feel better and have a good day, just to wake up feeling awful again.
Everyone around me is telling me to take my time to rest so I can get better. In the back of my mind, I fear that I may never feel like myself again. Most days I cry out of frustration and I get mad at myself for not feeling better by now. I feel guilt for not being able to be a nurse and work. I get anxious doing anything outside of the house. I get jealous when I see my friends being normal and going out, going to the gym, or working and I ask myself, “When will I ever feel normal again?” Then I beat myself up for feeling this way as I have seen people with COVID turn out much worse in the hospital and have witnessed many COVID-related deaths. “People are dying, they can’t breathe, and I’m crying because I’m sick of being sick?” But I AM REALLY OVER BEING SICK... I WANT TO BE BACK TO NORMAL!! I now suffer from horrible anxiety and many times I can’t tell if my symptoms are COVID or anxiety-related which is debilitating at times.
I started seeing a therapist because this virus is sucking the life out of me, affecting my relationships, and keeping me away from my family which I am very close to as I'm an only child. I was also supposed to get married to the love of my life, my fiance', Joey; we had the wedding planned and had to cancel when the Coronavirus showed up as an uninvited guest. We have no date scheduled yet, as we are unsure when this virus will go away.
I joined an online support group called Coronavirus Survivor Corps, most members share similar or the same symptoms as me and are going through the same type of ordeal; this group has been my saving grace. I’m not alone. I’m not the only one feeling hopeless and confused.
My biggest advice for others who have not contracted COVID yet, is to take this virus seriously. I was a person who believed that if I contracted it, I would only have it mildly and be fine. The Coronavirus doesn't care what age you are, if you are healthy, and especially doesn't care that you THINK that this type of virus only happens to OTHER PEOPLE. And, if you get it, please LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! I tried to return to work when I wasn't 100%, and months later, I am still suffering. I have lingering after-effects of hair loss, nausea, GI issues, chronic fatigue, hot flashes, body aches, cough, brain fog. I have joined what is titled in the COVID-19 world as the LONG-HAULER group of Survivors, although it has some great members, it is NOT a group that I hope anyone has to become part of.
I hope my story will help others understand that COVID-19 can happen to anyone and that it should be taken seriously.
With that said, I only wish GOOD HEALTH on all of you who are reading this today. X0X0- Kelsey
My favorite place to be, the ER, helping people.
My mom, Julie, and my Nana, Wyn: Face-Timing
me while I was in quarantine. I am so grateful
for their love and support!
My best FUR friend, my rescue dog, Quinn. I don't know what I would do without her staying by my side!
The "love of my life" and future husband, Joey. I am
grateful for his love and support and for helping me
One of my "feeling almost normal" days
My ER "family"- FRONT-LINE STRONG!!!