Updated: Jul 13, 2021

44 Year old Florida Wife & Mother with a Coronavirus infection, tells what it's like to feel like you can't breathe and that you are going to die. "Esther's story"

Esther Gonzalez, age 44, Call Center Manager, (Wimauma, Florida) pictured here with her husband Danny

My name is Esther and I am a 44 year old mom of 4 (Tiana,-21, Joey-16, Jaylyn-15 (she had a bout of COVID during the time that I had it) and Tristan-10. I am also blessed to have an amazing, supportive and loving husband, Danny. (We have been married 6 years, but together 14). My family is rounded out by two adorable fur baby dogs, Oreo and Dexter). 

My COVID story begins July 13th. I began to get fevers, aches, pain, chills, diarrhea, loss of smell and taste. I visited my local Doctor and he felt that it was likely the start of bronchitis, since my husband was confirmed with bronchitis, 4 days earlier.  My doctor said if the fever lasted more than a week, to come back. 

I was barely able to breath. I was using my asthma pump & nebulizer every few hours. Just walking to the bathroom was a struggle, as my oxygen saturation levels would drop, and I would get dizzy and breathless; it made me afraid to go to the bathroom, when needed. There was one night I was so scared because my breathing was so shallow and I was gasping, trying to get in a full breath . I called my husband because I was scared I was going to die.  He immediately came home to help talk me "off the ledge" and I was able to find a way to calm myself , so that it would allow me to breathe a bit better.

On the 19th of July, my fever hit the 4th day of being incredibly high, 104.7, so I went back to the doctor. I was finally given a Rapid COVID test and it came back positive.  I was sent home with steroids and a z-pack, with directions to quarantine for 14 days, and to go to the ER, if my symptoms got worse, especially my shortness of breath.

I quarantined, in my bedroom, with just Oreo and Dexter to keep me company; it was very important for me to keep the rest of my family safe. (During my time in isolation, my 15 year old daughter Jaylyn, spiked a fever, and my husband took time off from work to take her to the doctor, she was given a Rapid COVID test, and also tested positive. We are blessed that she got it mildly and recovered within a week) I was still not feeling well and having a hard time breathing , so I went back to the doctor the next day, as my breathing had become so painful and it was very shallow. I was given a second COVID test, and it was still showing a positive result. Because of my issues with being SOB and having lower oxygen levels, they finally took X-rays and found I had bilateral pneumonia. I was immediately sent to the hospital, where I was admitted with COVID-19 pneumonia, which apparently is different from regular pneumonia. I was started right away on IV antibiotics and IV steroids to help with the pneumonia. 

While in the hospital I was having pains in my leg and had a CT and sonogram of my legs and lungs; I was found to have elevated D-Dimer levels (A positive D-dimer result may indicate the presence of an abnormally high level of fibrin degradation products. It indicates that there may be significant blood clot (thrombus) formation and breakdown in the body, but it does not tell the location or cause. which can lead to blood clots due to the covid as well.) I was told that the Coronavirus caused blood clots to form in the body as well, which could also lead to heart-attack and/or stroke. It was scary to think that I could throw a clot at any time. I was in the hospital for 4 days.

I started to recover and the hospital was able to get the pneumonia under control. On the 24th, I was discharged to go home, with a prescription for blood thinners, another round of steroids and more albuterol for my nebulizer to help with my SOB. Although I was slowly getting better, the doctors warned me that recovery would be slow and there was no way to tell how long it would take for me to be fully recovered; some COVID-19 patients recovered quickly, like my daughter, but others, end up like me, and are considered "Long-haulers". I would need all the rest I could possibly get, to get my health back to somewhat normal. Once home, I continued to quarantine in my room away from my family until I had a negative test result.

On August 6th, I woke up with no feeling or movement in my left arm. At first I though I slept wrong since I have been sleeping propped up since released from the hospital. I still cannot breathe laying flat. After a few hours the numbness still didn't go away and I began getting spasms and burning pain in my muscles and bones. My husband took me back to the ER and they did a sonogram of the veins in my arms for clots and another COVID-19 test, and thankfully, those both came back negative. I was released with what the doctor called "COVID related Myalgia". The doctor said this was found to be a common complaint in post-COVID patients., and I should expect pain, swelling, joint pain, numbness and muscle spasms, as my recovery progressed.

Other after-effects that I have experienced low grade fevers, at night and had severe ear and throat pain that occurred oddly only at night as well.  I lose my breath walking from room to room, have dizziness, elevated heart rate (over 110BPM), I developed hives all over my neck and face and am currently on round 2 of steroids. I still have phlegm in my chest that I just can't get out. I get flushed for no reason, at random times. I go through periods of no sleep, in excess of 24 hours. I have been placed on Xanax, because my anxiety is over the top. Not understanding what is happening to my body and what odd after-effect that I can expect next, is scary. I am tired all the time, regardless if I sleep or don't sleep. I am experiencing extreme hair loss. My doctor said that my body is is shock and it is trying to find balance and hair loss is a part of that. I have chest pains/pressure and feel like I have an elephant sitting on my chest most days. I loose my train of thought and get confused so much, that my children and husband have noticed. 

All of the physical and emotional symptoms are compounded by the financial strain this has been placed on most of us who are dealing with this. My hospital stay with the Coronavirus, was my second one, this year; although I do have insurance, I have racked up high medical bills from my 1st hospital stay for my blood pressure & Bell's Palsy (for some reason my insurance didn't cover that hospitalization). I have already gone through all of my FSA from work, for our medical.

As it has been for other people stricken with this virus, the stress has been intense, since bills for the COVID hospital stay and subsequent visits will be another burden our family really won't be able to financially handle. I have been out of work since July 20th, and I'm currently on Short Term Disability, through my job, which only pays me 40% of my salary. There are no other options for financial assistance for people recovering from COVID. We have a choice, to return to work, although we have not fully recovered, or we can stay home and recover and deal with the financial repercussions. In some cases people are losing their jobs because they have not recovered enough to return to work or are experiencing new post -COVID after effects.  

Prior to the virus, I was in medical debt to the tune of $9000, before I was hospitalized for COVID. I do not know what my insurance will cover or not cover yet from all the doctors visits, ER visits, and  hospital stay from the C-virus. I'm not only worried about paying these bills, but being able to pay for day to day living expenses for my family. I can't even go back to my doctor to be reevaluated for my return to work, until Sept 6th. 

As many other Survivors have had to , I started a "go fund me" campaign, to help my family stay a-float. My husband works very hard and had to stay home for 2 weeks and use paid time off, to care for my daughter and I . (He has now exhausted his paid time-off at work)

I have been blessed that I have amazing co-workers who have donated to help me during my recovery process. You don't realize how easily a downward twist in your health  can deeply impact your family, stability and finances. It changes the dynamics of your entire life with very little warning!

They have labeled us COVID-Survivors "Long haulers"! They really couldn't have chosen a more fitting term. This has definitely been a long haul. It's confusing, stressful and draining. It changes you! The recovery time is long and uncertain and all of us survivors are definitely in it for the long haul and pray things get better. I am currently 7 weeks into COVID-19 experience and recovery, at the writing of this story, August 29th, and I don't feel even close to 30% recovered. 

I pray they find better answers for us. I pray they become more confident in what they know about this virus and the after effects, I pray they find ways to offer emotion, medical, and financial support for us. 

I was very cautious regarding the virus, I was before I became infected. I worked from home, only went out to doctors appointments. I wore a mask when I left my home. I carried hand sanitizer and would use it as soon as I left the office. I was mindful on touching my face outside my home. My husband still worked outside our home and would come home and go straight to the shower.

COVID doesn't care who you are. It just attacks and destroys your life, as you know it. I am a COVID SURVIVOR, and as bad as my experience has been, I am blessed to have beat it and see another day!

July 20th, the day I felt the worst; in the ER, waiting to be placed in a room and admitted for bilateral COVID-19 pneumonia.

Me and 3 of my children, after I came out of quarantine and was no longer positive for the Coronavirus. My family is my "everything", and I am grateful to have had them to support and help me through all of this!

My daughter Jaylyn and I pre-Covid, on healthier, happier days.

My fur baby, Oreo on the left and my other fur

baby, Dexter shown above.

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