Updated: Jul 13
Lina Gaviria, 35 year old, graduate nurse anesthesia student (Miami Dade, Florida)
LINA'S STORY: Story written by Lina Gaviria, edited and shared by Carolyn Andrews
This is not a hoax, not the flu, nor a political conspiracy. When I came home on June 29th, I felt different. I experienced a headache that I can’t accurately describe, because I hadn’t felt anything like this before. To this day, this inscrutable virus continues to taunt me with several lingering symptoms. My story is not to change your perception of the virus but rather to make you realize that its course and severity are unpredictable. This virus humbles you; it doesn’t matter if you have a Ph.D. in immunology or sit on the couch, trolling people with unsubstantiated google “facts.”
My name is Lina; I am a healthy 35-year old , active female without comorbidities. I have been a nurse for the past 13 years, and I will soon graduate from the University of Miami as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in December. I am a runner, ex-vegetarian, and kind of a health freak on my good days. I thought I would be spared from this virus because “I am healthy and young.”
The Monday I came home, I experienced a pulsating pressure headache accompanied by chills, fatigue, and fever. I knew in my heart I had COVID-19 because of the quality of the headache. No cough, no shortness of breath, no respiratory symptoms whatsoever. My first positive swab was on July 1st. In the first two weeks, I endured headaches, fatigue, fever, loss of taste, and smell. At the end of the two weeks, I spiked another fever, and suddenly my headaches worsened. But wait, it is only supposed to last two weeks, right? No. At that point, my symptoms continued to intensify, this time, the headaches were unrelenting and unresponsive to Tylenol and Ibuprofen. The headaches were so severe that they drove me to the ER twice; the second time, I ended up with left-sided numbness, weakness, and eye floaters. Upon arriving at the ER, they noticed my health status and treated me as a stroke patient. After several tests and imaging studies, they attributed the symptoms to micro-thrombi and hypercoagulability, for which I was on aspirin for a month. They also noticed an abnormally high resting heart rate (110) and left atrial enlargement.
I was home on several medications and supplements to counteract the symptoms and ameliorate my cytokine battle. I joined a COVID-support group, because I couldn’t handle the uncertainty and mental exhaustion alone. These support groups are an incredible place to share our personal battles with the virus because going through this journey among a cruel and dismissive society sucks.
There will always be non-believers and "finger-pointers".
At the fourth week mark, my symptoms progressed to vertigo, blurry vision, tinnitus, confusion, memory problems, stuttering, hair loss, and handwriting changes. I felt defeated and stigmatized.
One of those days, where I don't even have the strength to get up off the couch.
I have lost 1/2 of my hair, on this side of my head
Today September 12th, marks 11 weeks since the onset of symptoms. I am still experiencing fatigue, sporadic blurry vision, tachycardia, labile blood pressure, and continued hair loss. Fortunately, I’m being followed by a fantastic team of doctors from the University of Miami Hospital (UMH), who have attributed my cardiac and neurological symptoms to post viral dysautonomia. I am so grateful for their care and commitment to find answers and guide me in the right direction. Being in such a demanding graduate program while riding the "Coronacoaster", has been debilitating physically and mentally. But having the right health care professionals on my side has made a difference in my experience with COVID-19.
A day where I actually feel half way decent