‘I Completely Lost My Sense of Taste and Smell:’ A Local COVID-19 Patient Shares Their Story

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Every day, the number of positive COVID-19 cases grows. As the numbers increase, things can feel incredibly overwhelming, even with the promise of things reopening on the horizon. Naturally, many of us have questions as to the virus manifests in the body, what the symptoms are, and what exactly the experience of having the virus is like. One anonymous patient reached out to share their story with Hoboken Girl and, hopefully, answer some of those burning questions. The individual, in their 30s and wished to remain anonymous, so we kept all of their other demographics private. Here is their story.

coronavirus testing hoboken

Where do you live?

Hoboken.

What do you do for work? 

A publicist for a book publisher.

When did you first feel symptoms? 

I noticed I was feeling a bit off on Saturday, April 5th and by the evening of the 6th was pretty convinced I had COVID as I completely lost my sense of taste and smell.

What were they? How severe/mild were they? 

My first symptom {one I only realized was a symptom after the fact – it’s one of the rarer ones} was a congested nose. I typically have allergies this time of year, but it differed from the usual as I didn’t have a head cold or runny nose and I wasn’t sneezing. The next morning, I started to feel a little fatigued, like you might before coming down with another illness like the flu. What really made me worry that it was COVID was that less than 24 hours after developing the nasal congestion, I completely lost my sense of taste and smell and by the next morning I started to have chest pains and shortness of breath. My temperature was also higher than my normal {but never more than 99}.

When did you decide to take a test? What made you decide?

My shortness of breath and chest pains gradually worsened over three days. Knowing that Hoboken had local test sites I could get to easily and feeling like my condition was deteriorating, I thought it was worth it to try and get one, and to see what medical advice the doctors had.

How do you think you contracted COVID-19?

I’m honestly not sure. My husband and I have been sheltering in place and practicing social distancing and handwashing hygiene etc., since Hoboken locked down, only going out for a weekly grocery run and to walk our dog. My best guess would be I that contracted it in the grocery store. This was before masks were mandatory, but we were vigilant about wiping everything down. We didn’t notice anyone coughing in the store and it was quite empty. Another possibility would be when walking our dog. I’d cross the street when someone was coming my way but there were a few instances of runners coming up behind me and breathing very heavily/coughing/spitting. I would move out of the way as soon as I was aware of them, but some got quite close.

Read More: Jersey City to Begin Antibody Testing for Residents on Monday, 5/4

Did you have any difficulty getting tested?

No difficulty at all! I first called the Hoboken Health Department and they directed me to Prompt MD. When I called Prompt MD, they immediately told me to come in. I was the only patient and was seen extremely quickly {it was a weekday morning}. While in the waiting room though I did hear them asking people to set up virtual appointments first, which makes me think I must have sounded like I was in bad condition on the phone.

When did you test positive? How long did it take for you to get results? 

I took the test on a Thursday morning and they called me with the results Saturday morning.

Did you need to go to a doctor or hospital? Where did you go?  

I went to Prompt MD on 1st Street for an in-person evaluation and test. They were all absolutely wonderful! Not only did they give me a test but they also made it clear that I could call or come in any time I needed, which really put my mind at ease and made me feel like my husband and I didn’t have to deal with this alone.

What have you been doing to recover? Are you home?

I’m happy to say I’m now fully recovered, although my sense of taste and smell are not completely back. While sick I was lucky enough to get some tips from family friends who work as nurses in COVID  units out on Long Island, all of which seemed to help:

  • – Don’t sleep on your back but rather on your stomach or on your side. Sleeping on your back compresses the lungs and can exacerbate the problem. And when you’re in bed but awake, make sure you’re sitting upright
  • – Do a lot of deep breathing exercises, like you would in yoga. I would inhale and exhale to the count of five frequently throughout the day
  • – While fatigue is real, make sure you also get up and move as much as you can. This helps keep the lungs strong and prevents the mucus in your respiratory system from hardening {which can make the shortness of breath much, much worse}.
  • – Take hot showers every day – the steam really helps!
  • – Drink a lot, a lot of very hot tea – that can help with them mucus build-up as well. And make sure to hydrate in general. The more fluids the better.

What medications are you taking? 

The doctor at PromptMD gave me an inhaler, some nasal spray, a z-pac and cough medicine, all of which seemed to help. I also took zinc and vitamin D. And as I tend to be anemic, I took a daily iron supplement to boost the oxygen in my red blood cells {if you’re not iron deficient though, don’t take them}.

Are you still experiencing symptoms? How long have you been quarantining for? 

I isolated in our guest bedroom for a total of 18 days — and fortunately, my mother-in-law was able to take our dog so my husband isolated in our apartment as well. I’ve now recovered and the only lingering symptom has been muted taste and smell, although they are gradually coming back. Otherwise, I feel like my normal self again and luckily my husband seems to be okay too. He was tested after my results came back positive, but he came back negative and never showed any symptoms.

Before you found out you were positive, did you go anywhere locally? 

I went for a walk outside when I just had the nasal congestion but once the more telling symptoms appeared I self-isolated, only leaving once {with a mask} to go to the doctor’s office to get tested.

What have doctors told you since you have to quarantine? Is there a timeline? Will you need to get tested again to leave your house? 

 My doctor offered to test me again but given the delays by the time the result comes back it might not be relevant anymore. Instead they told me to follow the CDC guidelines – once you’ve gone 72 hours symptom-free, you’re considered recovered and non-contagious. To be extra safe I waited closer to 96 hours. They also told me that the loss of taste and smell is not an indicator of you still being contagious so even though I still don’t have taste/smell fully back, I could come out of isolation.

See More: ‘Today Marks My 33rd day in Self-Quarantine:’ A COVID-19 Patient Shares Their Story

How do you feel the government is handling the epidemic?

Hoboken has done a fantastic job. I have friends and colleagues in NYC who have exhibited similar symptoms to me and were not able to get tested or get anywhere close to the support I had here. I feel extremely fortunate to be in a state and a city that is taking this seriously and worked quickly to set up testing sites and resources for those affected by COVID. I can’t say the same for the federal response – it’s been a disaster that will end up costing thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives.

Do you have any advice for someone who thinks they’re positive?  

Don’t panic but take it seriously. The second you think you might have it, isolate. But please know you’re not alone! There are amazing people here to help you – reach out to them. Not only can they give you potential life-saving advice and medicines but they also give you a support system. And listen to your body! I know as a society we typically like to ‘push through’ an illness but you need to give yourself time to recover. Rest, rest, rest.

Do you have a COVID-19 experience to share? Email us at hello@hobokengirl.com.

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Arielle is a born-and-bred Jersey girl and like a true NJ native, half her diet consists of bagels and the other half pizza. As a graduate of both American University and City, University of London, she’s been a passionate writer ever since she wrote her first “book” in the first grade. When she’s not furiously typing away at her keyboard, she spends her time ticking places off of her “to travel to” list, trying any and all new foods, and trying to stop herself from spending too much money at Zara.


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