Being a survivor of the coronavirus doesn’t imply you’ve recovered.
Within the months for the reason that virus first crept into the Bay Space, greater than 500 folks have died and greater than 17,500 others have positively examined for the virus. For the remainder, the prospect of getting sick looms giant.
Now, after 100 days in — as most counties within the Bay Space have begun to open up — it could actually really feel just like the air is looser, that the worst half is over. However those that battled the virus say they haven’t essentially defeated it.
A lot of them are coping with well being issues, even a number of months in. For these survivors, life — their relationships with their family members, to their very own mortality, to the world round them — won’t ever be the identical.
The Chronicle interviewed eight coronavirus survivors who had a wide range of experiences, asking every to file audio answering the query, “How has your battle with COVID-19 modified you?”
Listed below are a few of their tales.
43, San Francisco
John Marble (pictured at high) nonetheless has his COVID-19 goodbye letter, and it’s one thing to behold.
In it, he explains why his San Francisco condominium was a large number (“I’ve simply been deep Spring cleansing”), gives his final phrases (“What a life!”) and crafted the entire thing in a blue highlighter.
“I didn’t have the vitality to stroll four ft throughout the room to seize a pen,” Marble says.
Marble, a author and speaker on autism and neurodiversity and founding father of Pivot Range, averted in a single day hospitalization for the illness. However even along with his comparatively average case, the 43-year-old Mission District resident says it was the worst well being expertise of his life.
This week marks 100 days for the reason that Bay Space started sheltering in place. What have we discovered in that point? And what does the longer term maintain for our area and the battle to comprise COVID-19?
“It’s going to be tougher to take this illness severely because it goes on, as a result of it’s simply human nature to be worn down by all the data and all of the practices,” Marble says. “And it’s one thing we nonetheless must be vigilant of, as a result of I don’t need different folks to undergo this expertise.”
Marble in 2009 was appointed by President Obama to the U.S. Workplace of Personnel Administration, turning into Obama’s first brazenly autistic employees member. He was in New York Metropolis in mid-March, scheduled to talk at a convention that was canceled. Marble began dropping his sense of style and odor in New York on Thursday, March 12, returned to San Francisco the next day and touched floor with sturdy flu-like signs. The signs lingered, and by the tip of the month the fever started to spike into harmful territory.
“April 1st was most likely my largest low level,” Marble mentioned. “My respiratory was simply closely labored. It felt like I used to be manually having to make myself breathe, and I used to be involved about passing away in the course of the evening.”
Looking back, he most likely ought to have known as for an ambulance. As an alternative he wrote his letter.
“I used to be furiously texting folks, simply appreciations of them, unspooling these love letters, issues I wish to say in case this goes south — as a result of it very a lot felt that method,” Marble mentioned.
Marble spent most of April 2 within the emergency room. He returned every week later after experiencing chest pains associated to pneumonia. Now getting into his fourth month since he began exhibiting signs of COVID-19, the once-active advocate solely not too long ago began rebuilding his power.
“I’ve now run a mile,” Marble mentioned in early June, “which I’m completely ecstatic about.”
Throughout his first stroll exterior after being quarantined, Marble mentioned he instantly got here again residence, haunted by the shortage of social distancing exterior. “It is sort of a zombie film for me, strolling via the world,” Marble says. “Having been COVID-19 optimistic … . It looks like I acutely see each individual and the way shut they’re to all people else. And I hold pondering, ‘What if I had been extremely contagious? You’re standing method too near me?’”
Marble’s social media feed at all times included vigorous discussions about neurodiversity and LGBTQ points. Now he contains COVID-19 updates, spreading a message of warning.
“This can be a onerous factor to get via, even should you’re thought of gentle or average,” Marble says. “I don’t assume my case can be thought of extreme, however that is most likely essentially the most extreme well being expertise that I’ve gone via.”
Shelly and Sherrie Howell
53 and 73, Pleasanton
In 2009, Shelly Howell was a wholesome 42-year-old — till the H1N1 pandemic. The an infection landed her within the hospital for 4 months, the place she spent 5 weeks in a coma and 9 weeks on a ventilator. She awakened as a quadriplegic, and needed to relearn every part — from strolling to brushing her enamel. The sickness introduced on years of different long-term medical points, together with acute respiratory misery syndrome, pulmonary fibrosis, bilateral drop foot and everlasting lung injury.
Howell tried to be further cautious when the coronavirus hit, earlier than Pleasanton went on lockdown. She ended up getting sick anyway. March 7 marked her first symptom: an odd gurgling in her abdomen that her mom, Sherrie Howell, 73, might hear from throughout the room. Then got here the taking pictures stomach ache; then, the debilitating complications and dizziness. On the third day, her mom awakened and mentioned her head was spinning. At that time, none of their signs match the profile for the so-called “three” signs of coronavirus: fever, shortness of breath, and cough. Checks had been restricted, so that they tried to remain out of the hospital for so long as they may. However the pains continued to develop.
During the last three months, Shelly counts, she skilled 45 completely different signs — and her mom skilled a minimum of 40 of the identical ones, at all times a couple of days behind her. Chills that felt like ice cubes had been working via her physique, excessive indigestion, a continuing smelling of gasoline or burnt acid, joint ache, strawberry tongue, mind fog. The oddest one, she says, was a sense like she was in an idling automobile, however magnified 100 occasions. “It was like my cells had been rolling round in circles throughout my physique,” she mentioned.
Sooner or later, she was calmly chopping onions, and all of the sudden she might really feel her pulse, pounding in her neck: it was at 148 beats per minute, greater than 90 beats above her resting charge. She and her mom each went to the ER at completely different occasions, and when she went, they discovered kidney stones, gallstones and irritation in organs together with her pancreas.
“It’s nearly like there’s this monster within you,” she mentioned. “And it’s going to play completely different video games with you on completely different days.”
Essentially the most curious half was that it felt like clockwork, as if the virus was working by itself sinister schedule. That they had three phases of it, every that lasted round three weeks after which left them with three days of relaxation, because the virus plotted its subsequent assault. Her flare-ups at all times occurred between 5 and seven p.m.; her mom’s between 10 p.m. and a pair of a.m.
Sooner or later in late Could, Shelly awakened and, lastly, felt higher. Her mom lagged — for 2 weeks she regarded like she was drugged — however is on the mend. Shelly has since skilled extra ache, and extra new signs — however she and her mom each know that with this virus, mending is a sophisticated and nonlinear course of.
The world appears to assume the virus is available in a couple of shades: asymptomatic, sick for 2 weeks, or within the hospital on the verge of loss of life, she mentioned. “This may drag on for months — and you haven’t any solutions,” Howell mentioned. “There is no such thing as a one that may inform you when it’s going to finish.”
As a nursing supervisor at Washington Hospital in Fremont, Jimmy Chang is somebody who is aware of everybody on the ground the place he works. So when considered one of his longtime co-workers got here in to examine on him through the first full day of his COVID-19 hospitalization, and Chang didn’t acknowledge the nurse, alarm bells went off.
“She’s somebody I’ve identified for 10 years,” Chang says. “She knew instantly one thing was mistaken. In order that they ran some checks and came upon my oxygen ranges had been so severely low that it affected my neurological standing.”
Chang’s expertise is exclusive, as a result of it was the primary time he had been hospitalized at his personal office. He checked in on March 26 for what turned out to be a dramatic 10-day battle, together with a number of days on his abdomen receiving high-flow oxygen.
Chang lives in Danville along with his spouse Julie and 4 youngsters, and will have gone to a hospital a couple of miles away. As an alternative, when his fever spiked previous 103 levels, Julie Chang drove him greater than 30 miles to Fremont.
“He was capable of name the ER cost nurse and say ‘I’m coming in,’” she remembers. “And so they had been like, ‘You’re?’”
Jimmy Chang thought he’d be residence in a day or two. As an alternative, his oxygen ranges dropped, and he was rapidly transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, the place the docs really helpful a “proning” therapy, putting Chang on his abdomen with high-flow oxygen, which helps ease the affected person’s work of respiratory. If he didn’t reply, they may must put him on a ventilator.
Whereas figures are nonetheless coming in, early numbers steered most COVID-19 sufferers who went on ventilators weren’t surviving.
“As I used to be capable of digest the data, I noticed, ‘Oh shoot, if I get intubated, I won’t make it out,’” Chang mentioned.
He texted his spouse two phrases, “I’m scared.”
After Julie Chang posted an replace with that textual content on Instagram, and the story was later picked up by native tv station KTVU, the Changs had been showered with prayers and good ideas from mates and strangers.
Julie Chang, herself an ER nurse, took meticulous notes and offered updates on Jimmy’s restoration in actual time, demystifying coronavirus for a lot of following the drama.
Jimmy Chang made a sluggish restoration, spending 2½ days within the ICU. He was discharged on April 5, and shocked everybody when he returned to work a few weeks later.
In early June, Julie Chang documented on Instagram a a lot happier household occasion — a trip via a few of Utah’s most stunning nationwide parks. Jimmy Chang is again at work full-time, and extra impressed along with his co-workers than ever.
“It was very comforting, as a result of I do know the entire employees there,” Chang says. “I had lots of people waving their fingers via the home windows, simply providing help.”
51, San Francisco
On March 14, Chloe Barr and her husband had been midway to Salinas to satisfy a good friend when she began coughing at a relaxation cease, uncontrollably. “I checked out my husband and I used to be like, ‘I believe I’ve the coronavirus,’” Barr, 51, mentioned. In order that they turned again to San Francisco.
It had been three days since she’d flown to Denver for a job interview. Over the following week, her lungs began to make crackling and effervescent sounds. With an oxygen pulse oximeter left over from her late mom, she measured hers at 88 — regular was often between 95 and 100. Quickly, she went to the ER, the place they took a nasal swab and despatched her residence. A pair days later, she went once more, and regardless of her adverse swab, they discovered the very particular indicators of COVID-19 in her lungs.
After three separate visits to the hospital, she lastly checked into the ER and stayed there for 5 days. She was placed on nasal oxygen, a cocktail of medicines together with the notorious Hydroxychloroquine drug, antibiotics, nutritional vitamins and opioids. She misplaced her senses of style and odor, battled thrush and sweated to the purpose she’d soak via a number of towels. Her blood work confirmed injury to her organs and irritation in her physique. On the final day within the hospital, the psychological ache lastly caught as much as the bodily and he or she broke down. A nurse tried to consolation her, however Barr might inform she was scared, too — it was nonetheless so early on within the pandemic.
“I believe lots of them had been so fearful of being in a room with me,” she mentioned.
All of the whereas, her husband had fallen sick, however didn’t inform her. When she lastly bought residence, the couple needed to maneuver separate isolations in a tiny one-bedroom condominium; they kissed for the primary time after 14 days. However then the horror continued, after Barr discovered that her father, who was residing at Atria senior residing in Daly Metropolis, had examined optimistic for the virus — and had been despatched to the ER. In his few conversations with Barr, he constantly complained of not having sufficient water to drink.
Her father ended up choking on a bit of rooster throughout lunch — his throat had been so dry from thirst that it caught, Barr mentioned. He was resuscitated, however by no means regained consciousness. It was a fugue of indescribable ache for Barr who was nonetheless so sick, however needed to make an unimaginable resolution about her father’s life. And although she was nonetheless battling the virus, the hospital let her be with him when he was disconnected from life on March 30. She stood over him for an hour and a half, holding his hand till he handed away. The room didn’t also have a seat for her. “I had my hand on his chest when he took his final breath,” she mentioned. She had been in the identical place when her mom died only one yr in the past.
Restoration has not come as a beacon for Barr, who ended up getting the job she utilized for and is working remotely. She nonetheless sometimes battles ache — in her again, in her lungs — and the odor of smoke round her, a symptom that’s adopted her all through her illness. There’s worry that the virus might strike once more. However largely, there may be anger and an endless and piercing grief, particularly when she imagines her father’s remaining few days.
Martin and Kevin Jones
60 and 59, Oakland
Kevin Jones had many unusual and horrible goals throughout his harrowing battle with coronavirus: Delusions of limbs being reduce off. A blue robotic within the room stuffed with crystals. An upside-down rooster doing the rooster dance.
When he did have a lucid thought, it was of his husband and accomplice of 34 years, Martin Jones.
“All I wished to do was get again to Martin,” he says. “I do not forget that was the prevailing thought in my thoughts. Get again to Martin.”
Kevin is among the Bay Space’s most stunning survival tales. The 59-year-old Oakland man, who was intubated for 3 weeks and given a slim probability to stay, is residence now and grateful to be alive.
He contracted the virus after getting back from Europe on Tuesday, March 17, the day after the Bay Space shelter in place was introduced. Kevin checked into Kaiser Oakland with a excessive fever on Friday, March 20, for what would develop into a month-long keep.
Kevin doesn’t bear in mind his first three days within the hospital. (“I believe I might need promised issues to folks if I died,” he says, “and I retract all these now.”) By the next Monday he was intubated and sedated, with oxygen dropping to perilous ranges each time he was moved or bathed.
Martin, who had a milder coronavirus case, started to obtain grim information from docs. When advised his husband had a slim probability of survival, he lobbied for a go to — with the Kaiser employees, a nurse supervisor, infectious illness docs and others working to get approval on the idea that each males had been COVID-19 optimistic.
It was a dramatic scene. Martin drove right into a secured loading dock, with a group of PPE-covered safety and his personal elevator. He spent 4 hours, holding Kevin’s hand, speaking concerning the time they met on the outdated Stud bar in San Francisco, their canines and enjoying Kevin’s favourite music.
“I didn’t truly say goodbye, as a result of if in any method he was listening to me, that’s not what I wished him to listen to,” Martin says. “However that’s successfully what it was.”
Goodbye wasn’t needed. On Easter Sunday, April 12, after 21 days on a ventilator, Kevin’s enjoyable vitality poured into the world once more.
“I awakened and mentioned, ‘What’s up bitches, I’m again,’” Kevin Jones says. “I got here again the identical day Jesus did.”
He returned residence on April 20, and as of early June was nonetheless receiving oxygen from a cellular tank to assist along with his respiratory. However his vitality is returning and spirits are excessive. He cooks meals and catches up with mates, despite the fact that conversations nonetheless go away him wanting breath. “We joke that I’ve gone from being his caregiver to being his warden,” Martin says.
The pair have lots of recommendation now: COVID-19 is not any joke. It may possibly hit wholesome folks onerous. Hold your social distancing and put on a masks.
However their strongest message is considered one of human connection.
“That’s what pulled me via the complete factor, I’m positive,” Kevin says. “And God. And all of the individuals who I didn’t know had been in my life, and I had forgotten had been in my life.”
Recognize the love you might have, they are saying, and deal with day-after-day as a present.
“I attain out and contact him at evening,” Martin says. “Simply to ensure he’s there.”
Katie Swanson began feeling signs on Feb. 22, round three weeks earlier than the Bay Space went on lockdown, again when the coronavirus was far-off and when no locals had been thought to have died. The 27-year-old chemical hydrologist was strolling a 5K together with her household in Sacramento when she began to really feel actually off, which wasn’t regular for her — Swanson is an Ironman triathlete who works out seven days every week. However her nerves had been pulsing with ache all through her physique, and he or she had no concept why.
She assumed it couldn’t have been the virus — there was no method. That week, she labored a pair part-time shifts at her health club’s day care. When she bought residence from the final one, she stayed in mattress for 4 days. On March 9, she felt as if somebody very heavy was sitting on her chest and choking her. “It felt like I used to be getting hit with a sledgehammer,” Swanson mentioned. 5 days later, it felt like her sternum was damaged and her chest was caving in. Panicking, she known as her mother — and ended up within the ER.
As Swanson was led into the hospital’s particular quarantine space, she lastly entertained the thought that she might need the virus. Her good friend’s enterprise accomplice had been in Wuhan in January and bought sick; the good friend didn’t. Somebody at her mother’s work had gotten sick. Swanson began taking off all her layers and requested for an ice pack to take care of the sweating — however by no means bought one in her 12 hours there. They did some checks and an X-ray, then advised her to go residence and to get examined at a drive-through clinic the next day.
Her terror grew when that check got here again adverse. “Up till (then), I believed that every one medical checks had been correct,” she mentioned. “I additionally believed that somebody who was 27 couldn’t get COVID-19.” Pals advised her she was overreacting, that it was most likely simply allergic reactions. However as her signs bought worse, her physician grew skeptical, and advised her she believed it had been a false adverse. She additionally advised Swanson there was little anybody might do.
At residence, Swanson was placed on antibiotics and a nebulizer with two inhalers, however even doing one thing so simple as making meals set her again. Then what she had dreaded got here true: Her mom bought sick, too.
Fortuitously, she recovered faster to deal with Swanson, who misplaced her potential to stroll and discuss with out stuttering. At one level, Swanson’s face was turning blue and her eyes regarded like she’d been punched. On April 3, she additionally examined optimistic for EBV for Mono, one thing that rejected her much more. By mid-April, her situation appeared to be on the upswing.
Considering she had improved, she and her mom went on a motorcycle trip with a couple of mates on Mom’s Day. It backfired: Swanson instantly had hassle respiratory and all of the sudden had an episode the place she couldn’t acknowledge something: crops, her block, the folks she was with. That week, she struggled to spell easy phrases.
Even now, greater than 100 days in, it hasn’t been a full restoration: Blood checks confirmed she had an excessive amount of oxygen in her mind and her head nonetheless feels foggy. There’s the emotional toll, too, of relationships falling aside, and the ache of individuals questioning her expertise. Some folks nonetheless appear fearful of seeing her, even 6 ft aside with masks — and it’s a burden for which no finish date is evident.
Johnnie Clark Sr.
Pastor Johnnie Clark Sr.’s physician mentioned it wasn’t a good suggestion to make a journey to New Orleans — the virus was spreading across the U.S., and the 72-year-old had well being issues — however he went anyway. He didn’t wish to miss his mom’s 95th birthday.
He was feeling a little bit sick shortly after arriving, however chalked it as much as a minor chilly, his diabetes, his coronary heart situation. Just a few days after he returned residence, he realized he might barely breathe, so his spouse, Sylvia, known as an ambulance. As soon as he bought to the hospital, he faintly heard the docs speaking concerning the virus — and for a couple of minutes, his thoughts spun.
“I even considered committing suicide,” mentioned Clark, a minister at Phrase Meeting Church in Oakland, as he recounted his days of getting to lie the wrong way up on a rotating mattress, not understanding when the ache would finish or what would occur to him. He was ultimately induced right into a coma and placed on a ventilator.
Most of his household had gotten sick as properly, although to various levels. His mom was hospitalized, and his brother and two sisters fell unwell. Although his spouse hadn’t gone on the journey, she battled the illness alone at residence. After 12 days on the ventilator, the household took a leap of religion; he was taken off the ventilator they usually waited to see if he would breathe on his personal. At first, it appeared he was sinking. But it surely all modified after they advised him his mom was recovering — it was as if a fireplace grew from inside him, mentioned his daughter Dana Wilson.
Wilson, who talked to the docs day-after-day, saved reminding them her father was no strange man. He had gone via drug dependancy — which introduced him to preaching, coronary heart valve surgical procedure in 1995 and Hurricane Katrina. Dropping every part in that tragedy had introduced them to the Bay Space in 2005.
Clark mentioned he remembered a promise he made to the Lord: that if he might see his home once more, the very first thing he would do can be to get on his knees in entrance of it and thank him. On April 30, as he struggled to carry on to his walker, he knelt down and fulfilled his finish of the promise. Then his spouse of 52 years took him into her arms, crying into his shoulder. Even a month after, it’s nonetheless onerous to stroll in the identical method, typically it’s onerous to breathe. However he’s residence.
60, Daly Metropolis
“I’m not an individual who will get sick,” Victor Godinez-Cubillo says.
An engineer with a background in geology, he as soon as labored within the jungles of Mexico vulnerable to malaria and different ailments, with little worry of sickness. After twenty years working in his residence nation, Godinez-Cubillo moved to the Bay Space in 2001, settling in Daly Metropolis. The previous marathon runner and swimmer, now 60, says that earlier than COVID-19, he hadn’t been unwell in 4 years.
However on April 20, what he calls “the nightmare of my life” started.
It began with a light-weight discomfort then slowly constructed to one thing critical. He was examined optimistic for coronavirus on April 23, and, with fever spiking, and was advised by his Kaiser physician to move to the South San Francisco hospital’s emergency room on April 25.
The married father of three talks concerning the bodily battle — involving docs and therapy — but in addition the non secular battle happening in his fever-scattered mind. When the virus was at its worst, and he was hooked as much as oxygen, Godinez-Cubillo says he views his survival as a battle between darkish and light-weight.
“The darkish aspect is darkish as a result of I really feel very unhealthy, and it doesn’t permit me to assume properly,” Godinez-Cubillo mentioned. “Generally the darkish coated the sunshine, and typically I believed I wanted to surrender. However at all times there’s something saying, ‘Carry on, carry on. The sunshine goes to be there.’
“As soon as I cried and requested God, ‘Ship me your gentle, and provides me your mercy and assist me.”
Whereas Godinez-Cubillo dealt with the non secular aspect of the battle, his Kaiser docs had success with medical remedies, ultimately giving the affected person Remdesivir, an IV-administered drug being examined to deal with the worst signs of coronavirus.
After the second evening on Remdesivir, Godinez-Cubillo bought higher rapidly, and he spent a complete of 5 days within the hospital.
Godinez-Cubillo’s spouse additionally examined optimistic for coronavirus, and was recovering with a milder case at residence. He says getting the virus helped strengthen the bond along with his youngsters, who stepped up and took care of them.
Godinez-Cubillo says he bought higher rapidly, going again to work in mid-Could. Two weeks in the past, he went on an 18-mile bike trip along with his grown son.
“I felt drained, however I felt recovered in lower than an hour,” Godinez-Cubillo mentioned.
His message is considered one of hope, not alarm or dread. “Observe the protocols,” he says, hearken to docs, keep your religion and be protected. Above all, even should you get the coronavirus, don’t let your life be consumed by worry.
“We will have the facility to vary our pondering. Don’t surrender,” Godinez-Cubillo mentioned. “Even if you end up sick, you don’t want to surrender.”
Peter Hartlaub and Annie Vainshtein are San Francisco Chronicle reporters. E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org