The road to COVID-19 recovery isn’t always easy


‘Code Sunshine’ is a welcome birthday gift: After being admitted for COVID-19 to Mercy Hospital South on his daughter’s birthday, April 2, Bill finally went home in late April with his wife, Lynn – on his own 68th birthday. Bill, a COVID-19 patient who only wanted to provide his first name, spent three weeks at Mercy Hospital South, with a week on a ventilator and two weeks in intensive care.

By Colleen Wouters, Missouri Information Corps

When Gina Mossburg tested positive for COVID-19 on July 8th, she thought it would be “no big deal.” But the elementary school teacher from Eagleville, Missouri, was surprised by how much the virus affected her.

One day, she walked to her mailbox and wasn’t sure she could make it back. Some days, it felt like she couldn’t breathe.

Her body hurt from her fingertips to her toes. Even though she only had a moderate case of COVID-19, she said, “I honestly have never felt that horrible and I’ve had influenza A and B and the stomach flu before. It really doesn’t compare.”

The virus made its way through her family, bringing symptoms like nausea, fever, muscle aches, headache, cough and major fatigue along with it. It took two weeks before she finally started feeling like herself again.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients are considered to be recovered from COVID-19 when 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms, with at least 24 hours fever-free and improvement in other symptoms. In other words, cases are counted as recovered when the patient is no longer contagious.

But it can take weeks before patients truly feel well again.

A CDC study surveyed people 18-34 years old two to three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. The study found 35 percent of young, otherwise healthy people weren’t back to their usual health.

“The duration of symptoms can be really varied between individuals,” said Taylor Nelson, a doctor from the Division of Infectious Diseases at MU Health Care.

Recovery depends on the severity of the infection, as well as the person’s underlying health or medical conditions, according to Nelson. A young, healthy person with a mild infection may have a fairly uneventful recovery.

She said that regardless of how severe the infection is, many people will experience symptoms for a long time.

“Cough, shortness of breath and fatigue may last for weeks,” Nelson said. “There have been some reports of symptoms persisting for several months, as well.”

Kalea Sullins, a communicable disease nurse at Pettis County Health Center, has seen several symptoms that can last longer than the 14-day quarantine.

This is why, after the final check-up with a COVID-19 patient, her county doesn’t label them as “recovered.”

“We label them as ‘resolved’ because they aren’t communicable anymore. They could still be having symptoms,” Sullins said.

Some of those long-term symptoms include a cough, the loss of taste and smell and extreme fatigue.

Though it depends on the individual, Sullins has seen patients have a nagging cough for up to a month or longer after the onset of symptoms.

“Everybody just feels really rundown, even after they’re in isolation and are able to rest for 10 days and be able to just let the body rest and hydrate. So whenever they get back to normal activities, they’re still feeling really rundown,” Sullins said.

For Mossburg, she felt she was returning back to normal after two weeks, but she still wasn’t sure how much her body could handle. She explained that with COVID-19, recovery isn’t linear.

“There was one day, I think Day 7,” she said. “I thought — ‘I am pretty much over this, I feel great.’ And then the next day, I had totally taken five steps back and felt terrible again.”

Mossburg has since gotten better, with the help of her family and her doctor. In a Facebook post, she said that she wants people to take the virus seriously, even if they personally don’t know anyone who has tested positive.

“I consider myself recovered now,” she said. “I mean, it was rough, but I made it through.”

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