Covid-19 Chicago Survivor speaks out: “Two months later, and I still feel unwell”

“It’s not something that anyone wants. I hope that everyone does everything they can to avoid getting sick or potentially getting someone else sick.

You just don’t know how it is going to impact you or how it is going to impact someone else that you might get sick.”

– Covid-19 Survivor, Cari Reed

The Covid-19 situation in Chicago

 The Merchandise Mart – Chicago, Illinois

Photo credit: ©Stock image – 1720288240 – Bret Habura

Chicago, Illinois – a city best known for their music festivals, gardens upon gardens to explore, vast amount of bike pathways to cycle, and an endless amount of sporting events to observe – has now dimmed their lights, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Adapting to a less outdoorsy lifestyle in Chicago is what the residents of Chicago have been encouraged to do in order to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic – “Stay Home. Save Lives”. 

Chicago is home to over 2 million residents – and of these 2 million residents – more than half have tested positive for the Coronavirus, with more than 8,000 daily cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)

As the Coronavirus cases continues to rise in Illinois, an Executive Order 2020-74 – also known as the Tier 3 Mitigations – has been imposed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot  in all 11 regions of Illinois. The Executive Order became effective on November 20, 2020, it was re-issued on December 11, 2020, and was again re-issued through January 9, 2021. 


On the bright side though, despite cases being so high in Chicago, Illinois Department of Health reports, Chicago has a 98% recovery rate of the Coronavirus; on the other hand, there are still many who continue to experience the “after affects” of the virus. Cari Reed – Chicago Resident and Healthcare Administrator  – shares her experience of being diagnosed with the Coronavirus and how she continues to struggle with side effects two months later. 

Covid-19 Survivor shares her experience

Cari Reed with husband and son

Cari Reed – wife, mother, and Healthcare Administrator – began to experience Covid-19 symptoms on Friday, October 30th. She said, “I felt very rundown and I had a sore throat‘, so I decided to go to bed early thinking, ‘it must just be the week catching up to me'” – but then, by Saturday morning, she said she woke up feeling very unwell – ‘extremely fatigued, bad headaches, bone pain in my joints, very nauseous, and a sore throat’. On the other hand, she said, “I never experienced a few of the other “known” Covid symptoms – ‘a loss of taste or smell or came down with a fever”.

As Cari began to experience the other Covid related symptoms, she knew that she needed to isolate herself from her family – especially her husband, Rik. Cari said, “Rik is about a year-in-a-half out from having an organ transplant and he is currently on immune suppressants as advised by his doctors – which makes him immune compromised and more susceptible to the virus”.

As for Cari, she also has her own preexisting medical condition, Chronic Spontaneous Idiopathic Urticaria, which refers to the mass cells in her body, that is broken and she said she randomly has attacks that looks very similar to a severe allergic reaction – such as hives that covers her body, which results in swelling, and blocks her airways. Therefore, Cari said, her medical condition also makes her  immune comprised and more susceptible to the virus as well. 

When Cari started to experience the Covid symptoms, she immediately isolated herself in her bedroom and called her physician to see what she needed to do. Her doctor recommended, “wait three days from the start of the symptoms to see if the symptoms subside”. However, after the three days she still felt unwell, so she decided to drive herself to a testing centre – which was an outdoor facility. The Coronavirus outdoor testing facility used two nasal swabs – one for a rapid test and the other was a PCR test.

After Cari got tested, she said her doctor called her about two hours later and said, “your rapid test came back positive,” and then recommended for her to monitor her symptoms.

“By that point, I started having tightness in my chest, but I wasn’t having difficulty breathing. 

It just felt like I had a really bad chest cold.”

– Covid-19 Survivor, Cari Reed

Cari spent 10 days in bed. She said, ‘the fatigue had come at that point and I have never felt so unwell’. Even though Cari felt so fatigued, she said, “it was very difficult getting rest and actually falling sleep”. Additionally, during her first 10 days of isolation, her husband Rik brought her plates of food throughout the day, so that she could stay in her room. “Fortunately,” Cari said, “we have a Master Suite bathroom attached to our room, so I didn’t have to share a bathroom with my family members during this time.”

Cari Reed’s husband Rik brings her tea andtheir puppy as she isolates

When her husband Rik brought her a tray of food, Cari said, “I would crawl over to the door, sit on the floor while eating off the tray, and then get back into bed”. Furthermore, she said most days she was even too weak to stand in the shower.

“There was a point, probably around day 8 or 9, where I was feeling so terrible. The tightness in my chest was so bad that I was debating on whether or not I needed to go to the hospital. 

It’s a terribly scary thing to not be able to catch your breathe when you’re laying down and you’re not even moving or exercising. So yes – when you are just being still and you get that feeling, it’s pretty scary.”

– Covid-19 Survivor, Cari Reed

After about 11-12 days Cari said, “the sore throat, headaches, and body aches went away”; however, she still felt extremely fatigued, had a terrible cough, and an upset stomach. On the other hand, she said she was able to get up out of bed, brush her teeth, comb her hair, and was able to sit in a chair to watch some Netflix – that went on til about day 19 she said.

“You’ve probably heard of people who have had Coronavirus have brain fog, and that is very much the case. It’s very difficult to concentrate on things.

Just even watching something on TV, I would space out – just something as passive as that. 

I just had no ability to consontrate on things, I was feeling that badly.”

– Covid-19 Survivor, Cari Reed

Around day 19, she spoke with her doctor about whether or not it was safe for her to go out of her room and be around her family, because she was starting to feel better. He did believe that it was safe; however, she said, she waited about two more days before attempting to go out of her bedroom, just to be on the safe side.

“The very first thing I did was hug my husband and then walked outside to stand in the sunshine – and it felt amazing. The fresh air was amazing. The sun on my face just felt very healing.”

– Covid-19 Survivor, Cari Reed

Covid-19 Survivor Cari with husband Rik

Video featured below: Cari shares her journey with me and what she has experienced with the Coronavirus – from the onset go Covid symptoms, to having to self-isolate, and then eventually being diagnosed with the Coronavirus. Duration 9:21.

Cari admitted into hospital

Cari Reed admitted into hospital for Covid-19

After 19 days of recovering from the Coronavirus, Cari attempted to “go back to work” – working remotely. However, her co-workers questioned if she was well enough, because they could tell she was dragging and not quite herself. 

Cari said, “I was not great”, but she tried to just push through the grogginess that she was feeling. On the contrary, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Cari said she woke up having the severe Covid symptoms again. 

“I just felt really wiped out, I had shortness of breathe, and I got really winded – just doing simple things like getting off the couch to go across the kitchen to get a drink of water. I just felt so out of breathe.” 

– Covid-19 Survivor, Cari Reed

When Cari began to feel these all too familiar Covid symptoms again, she knew that she needed to go see a doctor, because she was worried that she could potentially risk getting her family members sick again – even though she had isolated herself well into the recommended time frame by her doctor – she still wanted to make sure there was no possibility of potentially infecting her family members again. 

So Cari went to see her doctor. He checked her lungs, which he said were clear. On the other hand, Cari said her doctors biggest concern was the possibility of her having blood clots. Cari had been laying down for a long period of time while she was in isolation, which puts her at risk for blood clots. Her doctor said, “it is a known factor with this  virus”. Contrarily, Cari said she was not experiencing the other symptoms that is typically associated with blood clots – such as swelling or running a fever. 

As Cari’s doctor was concerned about the possibility of blood clots, he told her it was best for her to go to the emergency room to get it checked out. 

“I have worked in Hospital Administration for over 15 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.

Emergency Rooms are normally pretty loud and hectic – but not this time – it was eerily silent. There was a lot of activity going on, but it was a very quiet and somber atmosphere. 

Everyone was completely guarded in PPE.

All the patients were in private bays.” 

– Covid-19 Survivor, Cari Reed

After she got examined by a doctor at the Emergency Room, they ruled out the possibility of her having a cardiac event or having blood clots; however, they did notice that she was very dehydrated, so Cari received some fluids through her IV’s, which made her feel much better.

Cari said, the hardest part about going to the hospital was that fact that she had to go alone. She said she felt very scared and thought, “if this is a clot, am I going to have to have surgery, what’s going to happen, and how long am I going to be here by myself?”

Video featured below: Cari’s shares more about her experience of being alone in hospital to find out whether or not she had a cardiac event or blood clots. Duration 5:55.

Fortunately though, in order to help Cari deal with these nerve wracking feelings she was experiencing and not having her loved ones by her side – Cari did say that she was at least able to at least receive text messages and Facebook messages from her family members and Medical Colleagues, which was very comforting to her. But not only that, she also received a lot of support from the Frontline workers who were caring for her. 

“I wasn’t alone in the sense that I had so many wonderful and highly skilled very compassionate Care Givers around me.

They were just wonderful and compassionate. They knew I was scared, so they tried to give me reassurance along the way. As test results came back, they would come in, squeeze my foot, and tell me everything looked good on my cardiac tests and that my heart was okay. They would squeeze my toe again and run back out.” 

– Covid-19 Survivor, Cari Reed

By the end of the day that evening, Cari was able to go home after receiving her positive news about her test results and receiving the necessary fluids that she needed, because she was so dehydrated.

Video featured below: Cari shares more about her experience in hospital – what she saw, what the doctors did for her, and how much support she got from the Frontline workers. Duration 15:13.

Cari continues to struggle & offers a message to those who are experiencing the same

It has been two months since Cari was diagnosed with the Coronavirus, and she is still experiencing ongoing side effects from the virus. Cari said, “my  stomach is still not well and my stamina is still not there”. 

Even though Cari’s stamina is still not at 100%, she has tried to push through in order to get back to where she used to be. Cari said, she is normally a very active person and typically stays in shape; however, after attempting to do a two block challenge, Cari said she was really dragging towards the end. 

After she pushed though this, she knew that she needed to be a little more slower and be more patient with herself. Her doctors said they are confident that she will get there, but also said it is just going to take time. 

As Cari has endured through such a traumatic experience, she offers a personal message to those who may be dealing with the same after effects of the Coronavirus:

“If you have a mild to moderate case, ‘time is like the tincture,’ like my physician told me. It can be scary. It can be lonely. But don’t break that isolation. You don’t want to get your loved ones sick.

You can get through it. It’s really hard, but you can get through it.

There’s no telling what’s on the other side. Some of us bounce back quick, some of us don’t. Just stay in touch with your physicians. Listen to the guidance of the experts. Where your mask. Stay away from gatherings of people. I don’t want anyone I care about to go through what I went through, it’s just not worth it.” 

Video featured below: Cari share more about the symptoms she is still experiencing, what she believes others should do in order to avoid the Coronavirus, and a personal message to those who are also battling the same after effects of the Coronavirus that she is experiencing.

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