'I was terrified': 20-year-old shares details of battle, long-term recovery from COVID-19
Ronnae Gordon didn’t even think she could have coronavirus when she went to the doctor in August.
The 20-year-old said she had been using masks and gloves when she went to the store. She didn’t know anybody who had contracted COVID-19.
So she didn’t think much of it when she went to the doctor one day, assuming she had a urinary tract infection, which she had experienced in the past due to trouble with her kidneys.
But a couple of days later, a pain in her lower abdomen got much worse.
She was rushed to the emergency room, sobbing from the pain.
When the doctors took her temperature, Gordon said she had a fever of over 100.
They took a rapid coronavirus test, and she learned she had the virus.
“I was terrified,” she said. “It didn’t even occur to me that I could have COVID and that could be contributing to my symptoms."
The doctors ran tests and found out she had sepsis, which is an extreme immune response to an infection like COVID-19.
Gordon was admitted to the hospital in the emergency room where she lay in bed by herself, only speaking to doctors as they stood in the doorway.
“It was really scary,” she said.
When she was transferred to the intensive care unit, things were a lot calmer. The staff put her at ease, and she was released from the hospital a day later to recover.
But even then, it took weeks before she felt well again.
“I couldn’t stay awake for more than two hours before I got so exhausted I would fall back asleep,” she said. “I had no energy, I had no motivation to do anything.”
She was also worried for her family.
Her mother has a terminal illness, and if she were to get the virus, it’d probably kill her, Gordan said. She also stayed with her grandparents, who are in their 60s.
“Before I got home, my mom turned her bedroom into my quarantine room,” she said. “She got all the bleach spray bottles and all the Lysol in the world. Every time I would use anything, it would be like, ‘Spray it down, back into your room.’”
Luckily, none of her loved ones got sick.
But even months later, Gordon still hasn’t fully recovered.
Gordon has epilepsy and a condition called Alpha-Gal syndrome, which makes her highly allergic to red meat and other foods produced by mammals.
The virus has made those conditions worse, she said.
Her epilepsy causes her to have “absence seizures” that last several seconds and cause her to lose focus. That has been especially challenging as she attends classes at Northwest Missouri State.
“It’s so bad I missed half a lecture because I was zoned out the entire time,” she said.
The allergic reactions caused by Alpha-Gal have gotten so severe, she can’t even go through a drive-thru anymore because she’ll smell meat and have a reaction.
Still, the thing that confuses Gordon the most is how she got it.
“I had gone to Hy-Vee a couple of days before (I got it) in Springfield, and we wore our masks the entire time,” she said. “That’s the only thing I could think of. I was in shock about how I got it.”
Studies have shown masks do a better job of shielding others from the virus than protecting the wearer, and Gordon suspects she may have gotten it from someone who wasn’t wearing a face covering or wearing it properly.
“I take every single precaution as an act of love for people that are in my life and for people I don’t even know,” she said. “Wearing a mask and taking preventative measures is just another form of showing your community that you love them and care about them.”
She said she hoped the community would hear her story and start taking those precautions seriously.
“I want people to know that (this virus) is a lot more dangerous than it seems,” she said. “It’s not just a virus that can affect you and your respiratory system. It’s something that will impact you for a very, very long time.”