A physician had a mild case of COVID. Here’s her story.

No matter what kind of day you are having, when you open up your email and see that subject line, it takes your breath away. While it could be a notice that Jeni’s is out of salted caramel ice cream, you know that’s not likely the topic. So, you take a deep breath, and you open it.

Ten days ago, I woke up with a fever, sore throat, and couldn’t smell anything. I knew deep down what was going on, but there’s always that little voice saying, “It could just be strep … or some other virus, NOS.” So, when I filled out my daily symptoms update with the new developments, it was impressive how quickly I got a call from employee health. Within ten minutes of submitting, and I had my testing appointment for the next day.

I had heard the agony that was associated with getting the actual test. One friend told me they thought they had a CSF leak afterward. So, when the nice woman in the UAB drive-through testing site told me that I “could not grab her hand or the swab,” I felt it best for me to sit on my hands. Just in case.

The test was actually quite tolerable, but I’m not sure it could have been as bad as I had made it out to be in my head. I rolled my window back up and drove home and waited for the news I knew was inevitable. The call came from the sweet employee health nurse the next morning, and I passed the info along to everyone who needed to know and prepared to hunker down for the ten-day quarantine. So thankful for ibuprofen, Hamilton, and friends who left me an endless supply of magazines, Cheez-Its, ice cream, and fudge stripes on my front porch. Oh, and DoorDash. Can’t forget DoorDash. And Shipt.

Fast forward ten days. I am fever-free for three days, tired but no breathing problems, still can’t really smell anything (but that may not be a bad thing after being stuck inside for ten days). Every day I have been blessed by so many people texting and checking on me, making sure I’m OK. I’ve always known I work with the best people in the world, and seeing them volunteer to cover my shifts has given me one less thing to worry about and one more thing to make my heart warm.

Before I start to watch the next episode of Sherlock Holmes (I’ve already watched Hamilton once today), I check my email and see a subject line that reads: sad news. It’s an “Official Message from UAB,” and it tells of the heartbreaking death of UAB Police Sergeant Parnell Guyton. I had followed his story as he was diagnosed with COVID-19 several months ago and spent weeks in the ICU. He was recently released and able to go home, only to require readmission to the ICU yesterday. His death was confirmed this evening.

I didn’t know Sergeant Guyton personally, but I almost feel like I did. His son went to school and was friends with the son of one of my closest friends. From all descriptions, he sounds like a gentle giant, with a heart to match. He trick-or-treated, he protected his family just as he protected UAB. And somehow he contracted this elusive and confusing disease. And bravely, he fought for weeks and months. And sadly, he lost his battle today.

My friend, who is one of the best human beings I know, was trying to explain to her son what had happened, and she felt like she was struggling and not doing a good job. In the midst of all this, this amazing human stopped and asked me how I was doing. How I was feeling. How I was managing.

My only response was that I was feeling extremely fortunate. I have read more about this disease that I have wanted. I have thought more about this virus than I have wanted. And I am tired of thinking about it and worrying about it and being scared of it. But I cannot even imagine what Sergeant Guyton’s family, as well as so many others who have experienced the loss caused by this awful pandemic, are going through and will now have to face the uncertainty of the future missing an adored member of their family. I don’t know what they had planned for 2020, but I know this wasn’t it.

I don’t claim to know the right answers or the absolute right thing to do. But I know that I have had COVID, and it sucks. And mine was mild. As we move forward, please think not just of ourselves but of others and their families. It’s up to us to protect ourselves and our loved ones. It’s up to us to do what we can to make it, so other mothers and fathers don’t have to teach their eight and ten-year-olds about life without their protectors … their heroes. About death that may have been able to be prevented.

Please. If you won’t do it for yourself or for the guy next door or because of the conspiracy theorist down the street, do it for the children whose lives are forever altered, and for the parents who are left to rebuild a future they never deserved to experience.

Annalise Sorrentino is a board-certified pediatrician and pediatric emergency medicine physician. She can be reached at her website, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @BlazerMD.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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