The mother-of-two said that she had to be relentless when asking for health care since even getting a test for herself and her daughter was hard.
Initially, when people started getting infected by the novel coronavirus, two weeks seemed like a long time to be sick because of it, says a New Jersey mom, Ann E. Wallace, but she soon realized that the reality was harder.
Ann, who has a Ph.D. and is an English professor at New Jersey City University, was initially disgruntled that she couldn't get her 16-year-old daughter, who had symptoms, tested. "I felt like I was banging my head against the wall," she told SouthCoastToday. "It comes in waves. She (Molly) was sicker in the second week than she was in the first week and I couldn't get her tested. I felt helpless," said the mother.
On March 17, she started seeing symptoms in herself. Initially, she dismissed the pressure on her chest as anxiety for her daughter. "I felt like I had a heavy stone on my chest or someone sitting on my chest," she said. The mother and daughter were finally tested on March 22 as Ann falls in the high-risk category. She has multiple sclerosis, and her daughter Molly could be a health risk to her, as per HuffPost. On March 26, the results came back and Molly was negative but her mother was positive.
Ann believes that Molly's test was almost certainly "a false negative." "Thirty percent of the tests are false negative. Molly was tested too late. We missed the window," she said. The 16-year-old's symptoms lasted for a total of three weeks but she still has the cough four months later.
"Even the mild cases are rarely two weeks. So many people are sick for so much longer," she said. Their experience dispelled the myth that it lasts for only two weeks.
On her 50th birthday morning, Ann woke up sick. "I thought I was going to pass out," she said. "I was struggling to stay conscious. It was a very scary feeling," she added. She couldn't walk without help and almost wasn't able to dress. Her limbs were shaking.
The mom-of-two was sick for more than 100 days and with more people getting infected, she wanted to share her experience. She has documented her journey on social media and written for publications to spread the word. When she started writing about it, other people also came forward to share or ask for advice. From those interactions, she had four key takeaways that she wants to share.
One of them is that people are feeling "afraid" to tell others that they have the infection. "Shame serves no one, and, if you are sick, you may need a large network to support you," she writes for HuffPost. For the many weeks she was unwell, she couldn't wash dishes or make a meal. She didn't have enough oxygen to even speak and even three months later, simple tasks are making her breathless.
The other difficulties she addressed were people not believing it when someone said they were sick. Just because the test came back negative, doesn't necessarily mean that someone doesn't have the infection. She added that it was important to get tested as soon as the symptoms appear as many experts believe that the tests are reliable when done three to six days after symptoms appear.
Unlike what is popularly believed, the length of the illness varies. If someone has been sick for two months and people don't believe them then they need to be made aware of the facts. It's "a terrifyingly relentless, debilitating and deadly disease. Believe them. Their stories are true," she wrote.
For her, even writing a simple post on social media took all the energy away. "I would feel a wave of blackness coming over me and I knew I had to lay down," she told SouthCoastToday. She also kept teaching during this period but when she almost passed out in her doctor's office, she got to take oxygen home.
Another concern she addressed was when doctors say that someone has a mild case and asks them to rest at home, but the symptoms don't let up for weeks. For this, she advises that people need to demand the best health care available. This might be the toughest bit as the hospitals get inundated with patients but being relentless would help.
For more information on the pandemic, visit the World Health Organization (WHO) website.