Updated: Jul 13
Robert "Bobby" Starnes, age 46, Multifamily Housing Business Manager & CEO, Author, Publisher, Starnes Books, LLC. , (Atlanta, Georgia)
Q&A True Stories of Covid-19:
What month and/or date did your symptoms begin: Bobby: February 12, 2020, AND THEN AGAIN, March 26, 2020
Bobby: My COVID-19 experience(s) started in February, we were just hearing about the words “symptoms” or “Coronavirus,” and being told it was nothing bad, just more like the flu. But if you had a fever of 100.4, shortness of breath, cough, headaches, or chills, they wanted you to go to the Dr. to get a check-up.
The night of Feb 22, 2020, which was a Saturday, I didn't have to work, so I just stayed in bed with my headache, until Monday morning, Feb 24, 2020, when I had to go to work. While at work I was so tired I had to go take a nap at my apartment where I work at lunch and ended up sleeping until the morning of Feb 25, where I went to work again. This time I did not go home for a nap but went to the ER at lunch to get checked out.
Did you seek medical treatment or get a COVID test? No COVID-19 test in Feb or March. In February, they did not exist in the USA, then in March, Georgia was only allowed to process 100 tests per day for the entire state. I was told since I was breathing on my own, they could not give me a COVID-19 test.
This is where things turned for me. Even without being tested, in my February bout with COVID, they did a chest x-ray and a few other tests, flu tests, and strep test, because of my symptoms. All came back negative, and at the time they said my chest looked fine and they released me with an upper respiratory infection and cleared me to go back to work the next day. It was a mild case. No meds, no follow up scheduled.
With my 2nd bout of COVID-19, in March, I went in with a fever, this time of 100.4, could hardly walk, had to have a coworker drive me across the street to the ER, and as soon as I walked in, they took my wallet and put me in a wheelchair, put a mask on me and took me straight back to a private room with glass doors, (February, they had checked me out just out in the hallway on a gurney.) They did so many tests; it was unreal. I had the same symptoms as February, but I now had no taste and no smell, my vision had changed for the better (in a way), and my handwriting changed. I told the Dr about my visit in February, so he pulled my chart and he looked at my x-ray and said “With the amount of pneumonia you had in your lungs in February, you had COVID for sure.” I said I had pneumonia? I explained that in February, they had sent me home and back to work with an "upper respiratory infection". I then asked, "so what about today, I am doing worse now than I was then, about 10X’s worse". He said, “I’m going to tell you what they should have told you in February. Go home, quarantine for 7 days, and do not go around anyone and if you must, wear a mask, then after 7 days, if you feel better at least 2 days, you can go back to work", once again, no follow up was scheduled and I was discharged with no medication to help with my symptoms.
So I did what he asked, and then after 7 days, I was feeling a little better, still having shortness of breath, fatigue, sore muscles, so I waited 2 more days, and went back to work on the 3rd day of feeling better. That was April 3rd. I was fine all day except at 4:30 pm EST when my head felt like it was going to explode- it hurt so badly. It came on suddenly out of nowhere. I closed my office an hour early, went up to my apartment, and began throwing up for 26 straight hours. By 7:30 pm EST, it stopped. I had been throwing up about every 15 to 30 minutes. If it lasted any longer, I was going to go back to the ER; it stopped, I felt fine after eating something and getting some rest. From that day on, I continued to add new symptoms.
If you were hospitalized, please tell us for how long and what hospital you were admitted to. (Now, let's skip to July 5, 2020, because this is when I was admitted to the hospital because I was unable to eat, drink or take my meds for my ADS and KLS, (Autism spectrum disorder and Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS) - a rare and complex neurological disorder characterized by recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep, altered behavior, and a reduced understanding of the world. The disorder strikes adolescents primarily but can occur in younger children and adults) I could not stop shaking with hand and foot tremors, could not walk, and lost almost 25 lbs.) The reason for not eating is because my taste and smell came back June 25th, but not in a good way. Everything I put in my mouth tasted the exact same, like poop, or the worst taste you can imagine. It never changed beyond that smell and taste, so I had no desire to eat or drink anything after the 27th. On June 30th I went to the walk-in clinic to see if they could give me something to fix the horrible taste in my mouth, and I was prescribed some heavy-duty mouthwash, but it did not work.
By the 5th of July, my mom Donna, who lived in Houston, called 911 for me here in Atlanta. I was first admitted from July 5th to July 7th, they said for Lithium Toxicity, due to me taking it for my KLS, but I hadn’t even taken it in 7 days, so I don't know how I would have been over-dosing myself; they flushed me with IV’s until I felt better and let me go on the 7th.
July 8, I started feeling weird, like I was seeing things in my apartment. I would be talking to people on the phone but they couldn’t understand me at all, so after speaking with my mom on the phone, July 9th, she called 911 again, as she was unable to understand what I was saying and was worried that I might be having a stroke. They admitted me this time with Delirium, which was at 2:28 pm EST, but then released for some reason at 7:20 pm EST on the same day, just a few hours later. My mother called to check on me at the hospital, but when the Dr couldn’t find me and the nurses told him they released me at 7:20 pm, he had them instruct an ambulance to go get me because I was not fit to be released because I was still having delirium. I remember leaving at 7:20 and getting an UBER home, but after that, I don't remember anything until waking up at the hospital again. What day that was I could not tell you because I thought I was there the entire time and awake the entire time, but they told me they had to keep me sedated for 4 days because I was so agitated and they had to do a CT on me. I never even knew I slept. I saw things in that hospital that I didn't know if they were or in my imagination, and many of them were terrible things I can never forget. It was like an episode of American Horror Stories “Hotel”.
They released me finally on the 14th, even with that nasty taste and smell, but it actually went away 2 days after release, but I ended up with Vertigo for a week and walked sideways and I could not hold my bladder. If I had to urinate, I had to get up and go as fast as I could to make it there because it is like I have no “pause or hold” button in my bladder to tell it to give me a minute. When I came home, I realized that I had been forced to go on FMLA leave, from work, due to my illness. (12 weeks of unpaid time off that I couldn't afford)
Please, if you know, tell us how you contracted the virus: On February 12, 2020, I was working alone in our leasing office, and I had a new Foreign Exchange student coming to move in that day. He came straight from the Airport, to our leasing office at our Apartment Community. When he arrived I had to help him fill out a paper application, then get him approved, type his lease-up and then get him to sign the lease, then get his keys and walk him to his new apartment and then returned to work. It was on Feb 20th, 8 days later, that I woke up with the 100.4 fever and stayed in bed for 3 days with it until it broke on the night of the 23rd. I went to work on the Feb 24th and had to take a nap at lunch and slept until work on Tuesday the 25th. On the 25th, instead of going on lunch and nap, I went to ER to get checked out. So Feb 12th I had been with someone overseas when it all started; I spent 3 hours with him and then 8 days later I spiked a fever, cough, and chills, for 3 days, tried to work 1 day but was too tired and then had to go to the hospital the next day. Like many COVID positive patients are currently experiencing with their own insurance companies, my insurance company Travelers Insurance, who is handling my worker's comp case, says that is not proof enough to say I got it at work, so they have denied me twice now for my claim.
Tell us about the progression of your illness as the days went on, what symptoms did you have-
It's so hard to say or remember what came first.
Pre-COVID-19, I experienced:
1. Fever 100.4 for 3 days
2. Dry Cough
3. Shortness of Breath
5. Cold Chills
Post COVID-19 I experienced and am still experiencing:
1) Vision Changed, my nearsightedness grew stronger so I could see farther and some pictures and apps on my phone in 3D. I still have the 3D, but my vision has gone back in the past week.
2) Handwriting has changed completely. Used to be clean and nice, now it's to the point where I can't even read what I wrote, in some cases.
3) Lost taste and smell, until July 17, From Feb and March Cases.
4) Ended up with Delirium -10 days in ICU at Wellstar Hospital.
5) Brain Fog
6) Aching muscles and bones, which last a few days then move to other parts of the body, from the neck area and headaches to my calf’s hurting, knees hurting, just pain, everywhere.
7) Bladder control, when I have to pee, I mean get out of my way because it's on its way down. It's like I have no pause, or hold button, for my bladder to say just a few more minutes, or even a pee-pee dance doesn’t work. When I feel it, I have to go then.
8) Vertigo so bad I was walking sideways I looked like a street sweeper for a week
9) Still have shortness of breath and horrible fatigue
10) Stress and Anxiety, all the time
11) Some paranoia
12) Loss of weight, went down from 145 to 119, as of July 5th at my hospital check-in, to 137 today at the writing of this story, September 14th.
13) Chest pains
15) I have a habit of forgetting what day of the week it is, and it’s not the brain fog, its like my internal clock is off by a few days.
16) I feel like I am growing old from the inside, faster than the outside. In my opinion. It's killing us from the inside out slowly.
How long were you sick? I have been sick from Feb 12th and continue to feel sick, now, September 14th, and continue to see my Doctor's; it seems that I get new symptoms every day or so.
If you are still sick, tell us how long you have been ill and if you have been unable to work or if it has affected your life in a dramatic way. Well, yes I am still sick from my Feb and March cases. I was forced on FMLA and Leave of Absence from my day career in Property Management since I was in ICU for 10 days with Delirium, and it's a 12-week unpaid leave, so no paychecks at all for 12 weeks. And for my evening career, I am a Bestselling Author and I am trying to finish the book of my YA Historical Fiction Series, the Saving History Series, but with my brain fog getting worse every day, it affects my writing. I am writing slower than usual because I have to sit and think of words a lot of the time that should be easy words to remember. COVID has completely put my life on hold with only Long Term disability from work to look forward to but not until Sept 28th.
If you have recovered, please let us know how long you were sick before recovering: No one really recovers if you ask me, tell them to wait 3-4 months after getting 2 negative tests and that is when everything really starts to happen.
What were your worst symptoms? Delirium, Brain Fog, Horrible Taste, and Smell that kept me from eating or drinking anything at all for 7 straight days.
Do you have any advice for those who have not yet gotten COVID-19? WEAR YOUR MASK. You think that you may