Note: Amanda Showalter, RN, is a pediatric nurse at OSF Medical Group – Pediatrics in Peoria. She has been a nurse for 13 years – 10 of those with OSF HealthCare. In November 2020, Amanda and her family tested positive for COVID-19. This is her story.
In March 2020 when COVID-19 struck, I worked briefly with the OSF Pandemic Health Worker program. It was a short stay, and I enjoyed every second of it.
I then moved back to my department, where I was furloughed for six weeks as many outpatient services were shut down due to the surge of COVID-19 cases across the country.
As the pandemic wore on, my family – my husband and then 3-year-old daughter – and I thought we were doing everything right to protect ourselves.
We stayed home. We wore our masks. We didn’t go to restaurants. We scheduled grocery pickups. But still, COVID-19 found a way into our home.
My family and I were diagnosed with COVID-19 in November of 2020.
My daughter tested positive first. She had an upset stomach, vomited a few times and had a fever. Overall, she handled the virus really well.
My husband and I had all the symptoms – the body aches like no other, no smell or taste, feverish and fatigue.
My husband mostly experienced the gastrointestinal-related symptoms, where as I had the upper respiratory symptoms – cough, nasal congestion and eventually, pneumonia.
Six days into my diagnosis I became very ill. I was struggling to breathe.
Rushed to the hospital
My husband took me to OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, where I was admitted for almost a week. My 3-year-old didn’t understand why Mommy wasn’t able to be home with her.
When my husband packed my clothes and sent them to the hospital, she sent her favorite stuffed animal, Simba, to keep Mommy safe.
I will never forget the way COVID-19 made me feel – fighting for every breath! It was one of the scariest times of my life – for me and my family.
By the grace of God, I was never put on a ventilator, but I was on high-flow oxygen for several weeks.
The days were long and lonely. The nights were sleepless.
Connecting with family
My family wasn’t able to visit. My contact with them consisted of video visits with them talking to me because I was too weak to carry on a conversation.
I remember one night, an urgent assessment was called to a hospital room close to mine. I remember praying that the patient was OK, and hoped that didn’t become me.
I was lucky and didn’t have any severe complications during my stay in the hospital.
Back at home
After going home, I continued to feel short of breath and fatigued. I was on oxygen for several weeks after being discharged.
I had to do breathing treatments every four hours, and four months later I am still using them. I missed several weeks of work. When I returned, I worked half days for three weeks before returning to full time.
Need a COVID-19 vaccine?
It took three months to feel like I had recovered. Even though I feel a ton better, I still am doing daily treatments and I get short of breath with vigorous activity.
My daughter was scared of me when I got home from the hospital. She didn’t know what to think of the oxygen tube in my nose.
My husband was a nervous wreck while I was in the hospital. He was anxious about not really knowing how I was, or physically being able to see me.
Like the true rock star he is, he took care of our sick daughter, house, pets and himself while I was away.
It was stressful, but together we made it through.
Having experienced COVID-19 is why I chose to get vaccinated. I do NOT want to go through that again, and I don’t want my family to go through it again either.
Please, don’t be me. Don’t become a COVID-19 statistic. Get vaccinated when you have the opportunity. Do it for yourself, your family and your community.