Corpus Christi, TX- Nursing & Rehabilitation LVN, was hours away from being admitted to a Covid-ICU.
Updated: Jul 13
Amanda Mendiola Gonzalez, age 37, Nursing & Rehabilitation LVN (Corpus Christi, Texas)
My story with COVID-19 lasted for over 30 days; during that time, I was in the hospital for 6, very sick for 16 days and unable to work for 6 weeks. I was placed on oxygen in the hospital all 6 days, and I was hours away from having them admit me to a Covid-ICU unit, due to my plummeting oxygen saturation levels.
Let me start off by telling you that I am a perfectly healthy 37 year old, with no pre-existing or underlying issues. I'm hoping to help to clear up the misconception that Covid-19 only attacks those and gets bad for those with pre-existing conditions. Many healthy, young people are taken down by being hit VERY hard by this virus. To this day, almost 60 days after my first day of symptoms, I am still suffering from random increased heart rate and palpitations that I never had before being infected with the Coronavirus.
I am a Licensed Vocational Nurse for a Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in Corpus Christi, Texas. I work with a number of elderly residents, and as you may know, nursing homes have been a hot-bed for the Coronavirus. I am unsure whether I had contracted it from a resident or from just living life normally when I would venture out of my home.
On June 14th, I had just come off of having two days off, and was going back to work on the overnight shift. As my shift began, I started to feel an odd scratchy tickle in the back of my throat and began to feel chilled. I pulled my sweater around me tighter, and tried to limit my contact with my residents, as much as possible. I wanted to be on the safe side, as I know if I were getting sick, many of my patients are very feeble, and passing on any type of illness to them could have had a devastating outcome for them. I finished my shift still feeling kind of bad and as soon as I got out of the facility, I texted my "on call" back-up, letting them know how I felt and giving them a head's up, in the event that I got worse and could not go in. I went home, took my normal morning shower, and went straight to bed; more exhausted than I usually was after my usual 10 hour shift. I woke up around 1:00 p.m.-2:00 pm, and found that I had a low grade fever around 99.8. I texted the "on call", and was advised to stay home and rest; little did I know, that this would be my last day of work for a bit more than 30 days and that I would shortly be spending 6 of those days in the hospital on oxygen.
As the week went on I started with a different symptom every day- fevers, chills, painful, excruciating body aches, cough, nasal congestion, loss of taste and smell, and finally nausea and vomiting. At a certain point during the week my husband took me to a minor emergency clinic, to see if I could get tested for the Coronavirus. The medical staff, came to my car, I never left my vehicle; they assessed me and administered my 2nd Covid nasal swab ( The first one was mandatory in May at work and I was negative) I was told that I would receive results up to five days later. As the week went on I started to feel much worse and along with the coughing, a new symptom emerged that was terrifying; I felt like I was unable to catch my breath even doing simple tasks like walking to the bathroom or changing my shirt. As a nurse, I had my pulse oximeter at home and decided to put it on my finger; I was immediately thrown into a panic when I saw my 02 levels down to 85% (a normal range is 95% and above) I tried to increase the levels by sitting down and calming myself and trying to take deep breaths. By that evening, Sunday, I was gasping for air and my husband called the ambulance. I was taken to one of our local hospitals and was immediately placed in a consultation room by myself, as due to how contagious Covid-19 was, even family members were not allowed in with you. After waiting an hour in the room alone, they started taking my vitals, blood work and a took couple of swabs for Coronavirus, flu and strep-throat. (Although this was my 3rd Covid test, I still did not have results from the test that I took at the walk in clinic) X-Rays of my chest were also done. What seemed like hours later, the ER Doctor came in and said that I could call back for the test results in about 4 days, but that he felt that I might have pneumonia and an upper respiratory infection. After an hour of IV antibiotics and fluids, they were ready to discharge me; they had given me nothing for oxygen as my levels had bumped back up to 95%. Right before being discharged, the LVN came in to do a final vital check and said "your oxygen levels are going back down and we need to administer oxygen". I was given 3 liters of oxygen before finally being sent home. Oddly, I was discharged with no prescription medications, no inhaler for the shortness of breath and breathing issues; I was given nothing. (In addition, this hospital never gave me my results of my Coronavirus test)
We went home and my husband helped me into bed; I rested and began to feel a little better.
Monday and Tuesday, I remained in bed resting, but I began to feel worse. On Tuesday afternoon, I received a call back from the minor emergency clinic, they were calling to tell me that my Covid-19 test was positive. The doctor on the line from the minor emergency clinic, expressed his concern that I couldn’t even carry on a conversation with him, without losing my breath. He suggested I get medical attention, if the shortness of breath continued. After hanging up with him, we called my sister who is an incredible ICU Nurse at Doctor's Regional hospital; by phone, they monitored my breathing and recommended I go there, but I was hesitant and declined to go, after-all, I was a nurse and I could certainly handle this on my own at home. By midnight, I was still trying to manage my breathing, by staying in one position; however, when I would move, the air would leave my lungs and I would again feel breathless and light headed. Just walking to the bathroom would make me feel like I was dying and that I was going to pass out.
My husband decided enough was enough and he once again called the ambulance. Since I had a positive Covid result and had already been treated at a different hospital, the ambulance couldn't take me to Doctor's Regional, but they offered to ride behind us, in the event that medical intervention was needed.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, we pulled up to the ambulance entrance of Doctor's Regional, and as the double doors opened, my sister was standing there waiting. I was quickly whisked off to a negative air pressure room, where they started me on oxygen and blood work right away. My 4th covid test was administered. A short time later, the attending physician confirmed that the "rapid covid" test was positive. I was once again started on IV antibiotics, fluids and was officially admitted because of my breathing. I began my official battle with Covid-19, in the hospital alone. My days went back and forth between me feeling bad with a day of feeling good and then back to bad; it was a roller coaster of never knowing how I was going to feel one day to the next. At one point, my breathing was so labored ,that I was increased from 3 liters of oxygen quickly up to 6,8,10,to a high of 13 L, and back down to 8. For 6 straight days, I was required to wear an oxygen face mask. I knew that there was always the risk of going from the oxygen face mask up to needing to be on a respirator and from there, God forbid, a ventilator. That thought was never far from my mind, as I laid in the bed, at times gasping for air and feeling somewhat claustrophobic from having to wear the oxygen mask.
I was offered the antibody plasma treatment, which I accepted, but it took some time to find a match for me. At this point, I had no more fever, chills, body aches; only the shortness of breath remained. I couldn’t walk 5 steps without being exhausted and completely worn out, my heart rate was dropping to a scary low of 47-48 bpm and my oxygen levels continued to drop. As discussions were beginning ,regarding moving me to the ICU unit, I was given the antibody plasma treatment; I credit this treatment to keeping me out of ICU, as after I received it, I started to feel much better and my heart-rate, breathing and oxygen levels returned to levels that allowed me to finally be discharged and allowed to go home on June 30th. I thank God that I was able to avoid the ICU, because I was extremely close to being placed there.
This was probably the most terrifying experience, to date, that I have ever had, especially since no one was able to be in there with me and, due to the deadliness of this virus, I spent a number of lonely days trying to recover in a room all alone. (The nurses weren't even allowed to do their normal hourly rounds, as this virus could become so deadly for some.) My family helped keep my spirits up- I spent a lot of time Face-timing with my husband, my mom, my 17 year old daughter and my two sons ages 16 and 10. We prayed, cried, laughed and talked. I also talked to my dad, in heaven, asking him to hold my hand and help me get through this; I know that he was with me during my whole time in the hospital.
When I was released on June 30th. (My baby boy's birthday) I was released with an oxygen tank because I was still losing my breath, when walking.
If I can offer advice to anyone who has not been infected with this virus- Please know that this virus is no joke. I was young and healthy and had taken every precaution necessary to keep from contracting Covid-19, but still got it. I can’t make anyone take this serious, but I hope that reading MY STORY and hearing what I had to personally go through, will make people a bit more cautious ,while this pandemic is raging across the United States. (Is that drink at the restaurant without a mask really worth the risk of possibly being put in ICU, or worse? Or would it be a better decision for now, just to stay home?)
Thank you to my family and coworkers who checked on me and kept my spirits up and to my amazing husband for holding everything down and keeping my babies and my mamma safe, while we went through this unsure and scary time. ~Amanda