Updated: Jul 13
Nicole is shown here, glowing and beautiful on her wedding day with her new husband, Steve.
Nicole Ricker, age 34- Nursing Home Activities Aide, (Fall River, Massachusetts)
My COVID-19 experience began at the end of May. I first started with a stuffy /runny nose, sneezing, and a slight cough. Like many COVID-19 patients, I first thought it was my allergies acting up. A few days later my cough got worse, and I began to feel exhausted like I didn’t sleep even though I slept the whole night. My stomach also didn’t feel right. I felt off; I just knew something wasn't right. I never thought about it possibly being the Coronavirus, even though there were a couple of my nursing home co-workers and one resident that I was working with, who were positive for it, at the time that I got sick.
I contacted my local hospital to get a COVID-19 test. It was the easiest and quickest way to get tested. Two days later I found out that I was positive. Once I found out that I was positive, my husband, Steve, had to get tested also. He was positive as well. (Luckily, he had a mild case and was only out of work for about 3 weeks, and his symptoms were milder. We were blessed that it worked out this way, as we aren't sure how we would have helped each other if we were both extremely sick. He did a great job of helping to take care of me, while he was not well and also after recovering)
We quarantined in the house together but in separate bedrooms. Although we weren't physically together during this time, we had each other for moral support and he would come and sit on the floor near the door, to talk to me, when I was down or either of us felt really bad.
The symptoms I had were: cough, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, low-grade fever, at times around 99 degrees, body aches, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, this happened for weeks, and for most of that time, I didn't want to do much beyond rest in my bed.
Around 6 weeks some of my symptoms went away. The cough was almost gone, body aches were mostly gone, I was left with horrible GI issues. (I lost 30 pounds in a 3-month time-frame, as I was so nauseous that I didn't want to eat or drink anything, for fear of vomiting. I also had severe diarrhea and couldn't keep anything in me; this was a horrible symptom that was on-going for months).
Around July 8th, I was extremely dehydrated and almost passed out in the bathroom. It was terrifying and threw me into a panic attack. My husband called my mom, Diana, who is a nurse, and she suggested that I drink Gatorade. I had a scheduled virtual Doctor's appointment the next day, so we agreed that I should attend that appointment and tell them about my symptoms, about my almost passing out, and to see what they advised. The Doctor's office suggested that I go to the ER for further evaluation.
I went to the Charlton Memorial Hospital ER, in Fall River, and they did blood-work, X-ray of my chest, and EKG and heart tests to be sure that my heart was ok. While I was there, I got tested again for COVID and this time it was negative. (That made no sense because I was still having stomach issues). Once I was hydrated and all of my tests were back and normal, I was discharged to go home, with instructions to rest. I was on an inhaler for the breathing issues that were caused due to the horrible cough. I was also taking over the counter cough medicines, Mucinex, and prescription Tesslon Perles, to help with the hacking cough.
A few weeks passed and I was finally getting better. I had no cough, no body aches at all, my temperature was normal. I still had fatigue. (The level of fatigue that I was experiencing was so bad, that I had a hard time just doing daily chores around the house. I woke up most mornings feeling exhausted. Sleep became my best friend for much of this illness.)
Around week 9, the end of July, I had a new symptom begin, that no doctor has been able to figure out to this day. I would love to hear from any Coronavirus Survivors or Warriors who had or currently are having this same issue; especially if your doctor has given you insight on what might be causing this. I have numbness in my legs, hands, and arms. Although it has gotten slightly better over time, I still have some numbness that comes and goes. My carpal tunnel in my right hand is worse than prior to COVID. I feel like my left hand is starting to show signs of what feels like carpal tunnel; it's the same feeling that I have in my right hand. I wear braces on both of my hands when I go to bed now. It seems to help for the most part. I did go to the ER twice for the numbness. They ran bloodwork, did CT scans of my head, to be sure it wasn’t a stroke or something serious. I also had a CT scan of my stomach, due to my prolonged GI issues. Around the 3 month mark is when my diarrhea finally went away.
All of my follow-up tests so far have been normal. At the writing of this story, September 22nd, I have felt more like myself over the last few weeks than I have felt since this started in May. I’ve been taking vitamins to help my body recover. A Multivitamin, Vitamin C, B12, Biotin, and Melatonin. (After 3 months with issues with sleeping and being up really late, I got tired of it and began to try different things to help me sleep. I tried a weighted blanket at first which helped somewhat. I also now take a low dose of melatonin which has helped me get more sleep)
I have an Endoscopy scheduled for October 1st, to make sure something else isn’t causing my nausea other than acid reflux, or after-effects of COVID-19. On October 7th, I will be having an MRI of my head, to check further to see why I might be having the body numbness. I hope to find out what is causing my remaining issues: numbness, pain, and nausea, and am hopeful that someone will give me the good news that there is an "end in sight" regarding these remaining after-effects.
Due to contracting the Coronavirus, I was not able to go to work for almost 4 months. My previous employer had found a replacement for me, which made me very sad. In my work, you get very close to some of the residents, and they become like family. Knowing that I would be spending time with them and seeing them every week is why I love the work that I do. I miss my favorite residents there and am sad to not see them anymore; once I started to get more energy and find that I could do things around the house more, I joined another nursing home, doing the same work.
I was sick for 3.5, close to 4 months, from a COVID-19 infection; although my experience is mild compared to others that I know and hear about, the worst symptoms for me were the chronic GI issues and nausea. Over the past 3 months, I've lost track of the weeks..... they are a blur and I barely remember them.
My advice to those who have not gotten COVID is to of course try to avoid getting it if possible. Take the guidelines our Governor puts in place seriously. COVID-19 CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE... Wear a mask and social distance when possible.
I’m thankful for the friends and family who checked on me daily, did errands for me, and got the stuff my husband and I needed. I’m thankful for my husband who’s helped me in any way needed after he recovered. He was out of work for 3 weeks. I hope next summer we can have more of a summer and are actually able to do things we enjoy. We feel like we spent most of the summer recovering.
We are blessed that it wasn't worse and are grateful that we can be here to tell our story. We realize that not everyone during this pandemic will be able to say that.
Me, on a sunny day Post-COVID,
taking a selfie & masking up, in a beautiful Sunflower field.
My dad, Jamie, and I on my special day.
My "Auntie Rock" (Roxanne) and I - GO PATRIOTS!!
Steve and I enjoying a night out PRE-COVID, in Providence, Rhode Island, enjoying their "Water Fire Providence" event.
My beautiful mom, Diana and I, on my wedding day.
We are grateful to my husband's family for checking on us and helping us too!
Those that I love the most, sharing our special day with us.... many of these loved ones were the ones helping us get through the times that we felt most ill.