“It Felt Like Someone Was Pressing on My Chest” — A Hoboken Resident Shares Their COVID-19 Experience

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While much is still unknown about the Coronavirus, one thing is for certain: it does not discriminate. People from every age are susceptible to catching and spreading the virus which is why maintaining social distancing as the world reopens is so crucial. And if you’re feeling any iffy symptoms, you need to be honest with yourself and others and just stay home. Some of the symptoms can be easily confused with allergies at this time of the year, so it’s important to keep checking in with yourself and consider giving your doctor a call about getting tested.

To help spread awareness about COVID-19 and its effect on the body, a 34-year-old Hoboken native shared their story with us about testing positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, this individual is handling the virus really well and wants to shed some light on what it’s like dealing with COVID-19. Here’s their story. 

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What do you do for work?  

I’m an attorney.

When did you first feel symptoms?/What were they? How severe/mild were they?

It began Saturday night when I started to feel what I can only describe as slightly crummy.  On Sunday I woke up with a sore throat and tightness in my chest.  I suffer from anxiety and it has been high during these last few weeks so tightness in my chest was not that unusual.  Plus, a few days prior my allergies started acting up, so I thought that explained the sore throat. Although I was slightly paranoid that it could be coronavirus, the logical part of my brain kept thinking “But how could I have gotten it?” 

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

On Monday I was still feeling the same. While one part of my brain told me I couldn’t possibly have it, the other part began to worry. What if I did have it?  I wouldn’t want to risk infecting someone else.  My cousin reminded me that Riverside Medical Group had just opened a rapid testing facility in uptown Hoboken.  

How do you think you contracted COVID19?

I’m honestly not entirely sure.  My cousin and his partner {who is a nurse at NYU} are on the backside of their fight with the virus.  Thankfully, both are alright.  I had “seen” them from a social distance (and outside) when we went to check on our grandfather, but that was more than two weeks before my sore throat and tight chest developed.  And we also believe this was before they both caught it.  I live alone.  My sister who was staying with me for a while has not been here in weeks.  I had not left my apartment much in the two weeks before my symptoms started other than to go to the grocery store, to pick up an order at Buy Rite {because how else do you survive this quarantine}, to drop off Easter dinner to a friend and for a run.  Each time I went out, I took all the necessary precautions.  I wore a mask and gloves and did my best to stay at least six feet apart from any other human being.  I Clorox®-wiped my groceries, takeout food containers, and Amazon boxes.  I tried to make sure I had a paper towel or something in my hand when opening the doors in my apartment building.

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

Did you have any difficulty getting tested? 

I called them on Monday.  After an initial call with the staff, they scheduled me for a video call with a doctor on Tuesday to screen my eligibility for a test.  Even without a fever, my symptoms were sufficient for the doctor to refer me for a test and I was able to get an appointment for a test on Wednesday.

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

Wednesday, April 22nd.  It was the rapid test so I found out within 15 minutes.

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

I had a video call with a doctor to be referred for a test.  I went to the new outdoor testing facility set up by Riverside Medical Group on 14th and Jefferson.

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

I am home in my apartment.  I am trying to rest and drink plenty of fluids.  I called my primary care doctor today to advise him.  He has scheduled a follow-up appointment for Monday to make sure my recovery is going well. I was advised to especially be cognizant of my breathing.  

What medications are you taking?

During the video call with the doctor on Tuesday, he prescribed a Z-pack and cough syrup.  At the testing facility, I was prescribed an inhaler to help with my chest tightness and breathing issues.  My primary care doctor advised me that I do not need the antibiotic right now but to take the cough syrup if my cough gets bad.  

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

Today my symptoms have gotten a little worse.  I still have a mild sore throat.  It feels like I have a mild sinus infection and someone is pressing on my chest.  I’ve had more mild shortness of breath episodes and I get winded if I am on the phone for a longer than a few minutes.  Occasionally, I have these feelings in my head that can only be compared to dizziness and I am definitely more tired than usual.  However, overall, my symptoms to be pretty mild compared to what most people are experiencing.  I have not had a fever since beginning to experience symptoms.  I have been quarantining since last Friday other than leaving my apartment to be tested. 

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

The week before finding out I was positive, I had gone to the Acme in Jersey City, Buy Rite {but to pick up an order, I did not go in the store}, and to Aspen Market in Hoboken.

Read More: ‘I Tested Positive for Antibodies:’ A COVID-19 Patient Shares Their Plasma Donation Story

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?

I’ve received some conflicting information.  The paper I received with my positive results said a seven-day isolation and at least 72 hours symptom-free before returning to work {I think that note is aimed mostly at essential workers}, which I believe is consistent with the CDC guidelines.  However, my primary care doctor and a friend of mine who is a doctor told me at least 14 days.  The average length of viral shedding is 20 days but can be anywhere from 8-35 days and so it is still unclear for how long COVID patients are infectious. 

I have not been told whether or not a test will be needed before I can leave my house but I plan to ask my doctor during our follow-up video appointment.

How do you feel the government is handling the epidemic?

I believe that the NJ and NY state governments are doing a very good job with a situation that is constantly in flux and with so many unknowns. 

Any advice for someone who thinks they’re positive? 

Stay inside and try to get tested.  It seems like testing is slowly becoming more widely available especially if you have any symptoms.  Even the mildest of symptoms could be the virus so better to err on the side of caution.  It is important not just so that we can take care of ourselves but so that we avoid spreading it to others. 

Anything else you can share to help ease our readers’ minds or inform them of at this scary time.

I am a healthy and relatively fit 34-year old. While I haven’t felt great, it has been manageable. We have mostly been hearing the horror stories, and those are important to hear because we need to be aware of the worst of it.  For many people who test positive, especially if you do not have an underlying health condition, you will be OK.  It may be a rough few days and there may be some boredom, but you will be OK.

I think I’d also like everyone to know that while we are getting through this, we still need to be vigilant.  On the way home from finding out I tested positive, I was not sure whether to laugh or cry, to be thankful my symptoms were mild or scared that they might get worse.  Either this virus had been living in my system for more than two weeks before any symptoms arose (longer than what most sources say the intubation period is) or I caught it while out taking every recommended precaution.  If social distancing and the stay-at-home orders were not in place, without any symptoms, I would have been walking around risking infecting those around me, including any high-risk persons with whom I might come in contact.  Even after I had symptoms, they were so mild and mirrored the symptoms of anxiety and allergies, had my paranoia not gotten the best of me, I could have infected others if I was permitted to go out unrestrained.  My mom is a nurse at St. Barnabas Medical Center and has been working with COVID patients for the past month.  She says the hardest thing day in and day out is watching someone struggle to breathe and not being able to help them.  I miss my hugging my niece, I miss dance parties with my friends, I miss my office in midtown Manhattan (never thought I’d say that), I even miss my commute.  My hair needs coloring, my eyebrows need waxing.   But lives also need saving. 

Hoboken, we will get to the other side of this together.  We always do. 

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

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Corinne is a Jersey girl who has always loved to write, create, and make people laugh. Always the “comedian” of the friend group, she's a stand up comic and aspiring comedy writer. She studied communications/film and media at the University of Miami, with a minor in both psychology and exercise science, but now she’s living in downtown Jersey City. Singing and playing the guitar and piano are her favorite hobbies when she’s not writing, working out, or going to comedy shows.