I’m a 26-year-old nurse from Indianapolis, Indiana. I’m married with two kids and have two more on the way. My youngest is 11 months old, and my oldest is 3. My twins (a boy and a girl) are due on June 10.
Up until last month, I had my pregnancy plan in place. I’d continue to work my regular 12-hour shifts at the hospital until I physically couldn’t anymore. And when the time came, I’d deliver my twins vaginally, as I have done with my other kids. But on March 22, I tested positive for novel coronavirus. And now everything has changed. I have no clue if my babies will be born healthy, and I’m really scared.
COVID-19 has literally impacted every aspect of my life: the physical, mental, and financial. It’s hit me hard, and I hope that in sharing my story, other people will take the virus more seriously.
This may sound naive, but before I tested positive, I actually wasn’t worried that COVID-19 would get to me.
As a medical-surgical nurse at a large hospital in Indianapolis, I’ve dealt with some seriously ill patients before—and I’ve never gotten sick they way I did from novel coronavirus. In the days before I tested positive, everything was pretty normal. I was working my 12-hour shifts and wasn’t caring for any patients with the virus—at least none that I knew of.
Looking back, there’s definitely a possibility that someone could have been asymptomatic, but since the virus hadn’t really spread much in Indiana yet, I wasn’t really concerned. My hospital didn’t even have much protection or protocol in place for the nurses in terms of handling COVID-19 patients. We had gloves and N95 masks that were being rationed. But at the time, I just don’t think anyone expected novel coronavirus to spread to the degree that it has.
On March 18, I started experiencing chills and body aches during my shift at the hospital.
I felt totally normal in the morning. But by 2 p.m that day, I had a fever of 100 degrees, chills, and body aches. And I was dealing with typical pregnancy symptoms, too: My feet were hurting me, and I couldn’t stand for long periods of time.
At first, I assumed I was coming down with the flu. I wasn’t on my usual floor that day because I’d been floating around to help other floors out (something that happens when we’re short-staffed). I told the manager on that floor how I felt, and she told me to end my shift early. She was worried that I might have COVID-19 and made the call to send me home.
As the day progressed, my symptoms got even worse. I couldn’t stand. I lost my appetite. My sense of taste and smell disappeared. Even then, though, I said to myself, “it’s just the flu.” I didn’t want to believe COVID-19 was a possibility.
I stayed home for two days, and by Friday, March 20, I felt like I was dying. My fever was close to 102, I couldn’t eat anything, and my body aches had gotten worse. On top of that, I had an excruciating headache. I was taking Tylenol, but it only helped so much.
I started to feel a burning sensation in my stomach, too, and I had a lot of reflux. (Because I wasn’t eating or drinking well, I worried I was developing an ulcer from taking medicine on an empty stomach.) At this point, my husband started experiencing shortness of breath and body aches. And my 11-month-old had a fever of 103. My mom had to come over and take care of us all.
Later that day, as my symptoms continued to get worse, I decided it was time to go to the ER. My mom drove me there and walked me inside. There were two people at the front desk checking patients in. When I told them about my symptoms, I was taken into the back immediately while my mom was asked to wait in the car. They weren’t letting anyone sit in the waiting room in an attempt to minimize the possibility of the virus being spread.
Once I was taken into the ER, they took my vitals and said my blood pressure was really high and that I was very dehydrated. They gave me fluids through an IV and a drink with potassium in it to help with both my pressure and dehydration. They also gave me nasal swabs to test me for the flu and COVID-19, which really hurt my throat.
Two hours later, they came back and said that my flu test was negative. The mood in the room shifted dramatically. The doctor told me that he suspected I had COVID-19 and discharged me less than 10 minutes later. The nursing staff hurried to get me out of there; I didn’t even finish the IV fluids they were giving me at the time. Instead, they took out the IV, gave me discharge papers, sent me out through a side door, and told me I should get a call in about 48 hours.
I wasn’t really given any instruction on how to care for myself once I got home because they couldn’t say for sure whether or not I had the virus yet. The only diagnosis listed on my discharge papers was high blood pressure. It was insane.
On March 22, I received my results and was told that I tested positive for the virus.
A nurse from the hospital called me bright and early in the morning. I remember seeing the hospital’s number on my phone and thinking, “Why would they call me this early if they weren’t delivering bad news?” I picked up immediately.
“We’ve got your results,” the nurse said. “You are COVID-19-positive.” She told me that my OB-GYN was notified and that he’d be checking in with me soon.
She also said that if I had any issues breathing that I should come back. But otherwise, since there’s no treatment, I was instructed to just stay home for 14 days and rest. And that was the end of the conversation.
After I got off the phone with the nurse, I started crying because I was like, “Oh my goodness, I have contracted this deadly virus. I’ve probably infected my entire family. What am I supposed to do?” And of course, I was worried about the twins, too. I had no idea how any of this was going to affect them. I immediately felt stressed and anxious.
I had my mother take my kids to her place for two weeks so that my husband and I could recover. Of course, there was a chance that my mother had contracted the virus while taking care of us. But she wasn’t showing any symptoms, and I figured it was better than having her and my children staying with me when I had definitely tested positive.
My ob-gyn called to check on me every two to three days, encouraging me to rest and hydrate. We also scheduled a telemedicine visit for April 10, giving me some time to recover.
I called my manager and updated him on my condition. That’s when I was told that two other hospital staff members had also tested positive for COVID-19. I was taken off the schedule for the next 14 days.
I spent the next two weeks at home in bed, battling novel coronavirus.
I stayed in the house from March 22 until April 6. I did gradually start to feel better, day by day. Eventually, I shook the fever, my chills were gone, and my appetite returned. The only thing that really bothered me as April began was the shortness of breath, which I had been experiencing anyway from being pregnant.
So on April 6 (day 15 of isolation), I tried to go back to work. When I got there, I had to check in with a nurse practitioner who asked me if I was feeling 100 percent. And my answer was no—but I’m pregnant and nothing feels 100 percent when you’re carrying two babies.
I was told that, because I was still having some trouble breathing, I had to leave and receive two negative COVID-19 test results before I could come back to work. The nurse sent me to a testing center that day, and I got my results back on the eighth. I’d tested positive again for COVID-19.
At this point, I was so frustrated since I’d been hoping that I’d be able to go back into work the next week. I talked to my ob-gyn, and we discussed my taking a medical leave of absence. He told me that I needed to stay home to be extra safe because there’s still so much we don’t know about novel coronavirus. I could contract it again, for instance. And I haven’t even tested negative yet.
“You just need to stay home and be safe for you and the babies,” he told me. And I guess that’s what I’m going to do.
Yes, I’m feeling better. But I still can’t say with confidence that the babies and I will make it out of all of this okay.
At this point, I feel like I’m walking on eggshells. I have no clue how this virus will affect my twins [Editor’s note: Experts don’t currently believe it’s likely that pregnant women can transmit novel coronavirus to fetuses in utero, per the CDC]. Before I even got sick, the little girl had already been diagnosed with heterotaxy syndrome, meaning her organs have developed on the wrong side of her body. But we won’t know what that means for her until she’s born.
On April 10, I went in to see my fetal maternal medicine doctor and my ob-gyn was in the same building, so we decided to make my telemedicine visit for that day into an in-person visit. I made sure to wear a mask, and the staff deliberately avoided booking any other appointments for the hour before or after mine. You could tell they were really fearful about my being there and that they didn’t want to get too close. But I was just happy they let me come in at all. I was in desperate need of some reassurance.
During my visit, I got an ultrasound and was told that the babies looked healthy. Their heartbeats were great, and they were growing. But I still have three months left. Ultimately, my doctors said that we won’t really know what’s happening to them health-wise until they’re born. And that’s incredibly scary.
My stress levels are through the roof. We’re hoping that my being put on medical leave will help me relax. But I’m not getting paid right now, and I can’t help but think about how I’m not providing for my family.
On top of everything else, my birth plan has completely shifted.
My ob-gyn wants me to deliver mid-May via C-section because I’m at a higher risk of going into preterm labor since I just had my daughter last May. But I know nothing about C-sections since I gave birth to my other two babies vaginally—except that the recovery time for a C-section is longer. Since I will have to get back to work and care for four small children, that just isn’t ideal.
At this point, I’m praying for a miracle. I’m just hoping this all turns around. This is a life-changing time for me, being pregnant with twins, and I feel like I can’t celebrate it because of everything else that’s happened. But I hope that, by sharing my story, I’ll encourage people to start taking the virus more seriously.
Healthcare workers are putting ourselves at risk for the public—so the least you can do for them is take measures like staying home and social distancing to try to slow the spread of the virus. Please—my babies and I, along with my fellow healthcare workers, are depending on you.