It all started with a pain in the eyes, then a slight headache and lack of energy.
A Walthall County woman and fitness enthusiast who became ill with the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Southwest Mississippi recalled her bout with COVID-19.
The health-conscious mother in her 50s made running a mile and doing squats, leg lifts and other exercises part of her daily routine before becoming sick.
Days after falling ill, she received an unexpected phone call in her bed at Beacham Memorial Hospital in Magnolia from officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health, who confirmed she had tested positive for coronavirus.
The patient, who asked not to be identified, said she had no idea how she became infected.
She never smoked and doesn’t drink. She has high blood pressure but no other pre-existing conditions or known underlying medical issues. She described herself as fit for her age.
Early in March she went to Beacham to receive regular steroid shots for her blood pressure. She felt some congestion in her throat and chest, so doctors put her on an antibacterial treatment known as a Z pack. On the last day of her regimen, her head hurt tremendously.
“It felt like my eyes would pop out of my head,” she said.
The pain and anxiety became overwhelming and she had her husband take her to an emergency room in Brookhaven. She’d been to Cincinnati a month prior for a medical appointment for her daughter and was tested for the flu but doesn’t recall being tested for strep throat. The tests for the flu were negative.
Doctors in Brookhaven put her on fluids and gave her antibiotics before releasing her.
“I was still very ill when I left, but I was praying I would feel better,” she said.
She suffered in her home for two more days before asking her husband to bring her back to the emergency room in Brookhaven.
“I couldn’t do anything. It was just so bad,” she said. “It was the most sick I’ve felt in my life.”
Doctors checked her for the flu and put her on fluids before releasing her. She exited the hospital holding onto the walls for support because of a splitting headache that obscured her vision.
The weekend passed miserably and she convinced herself to drive to doctors in Magnolia, who performed an oral test for coronavirus and advised her results would likely return in a couple of days.
She left Beacham Memorial Hospital and slumped over the steering wheel in her car, unable to gather the energy to put the vehicle in reverse and head toward home. Nurses saw her in the vehicle, called her husband to pick up their daughter and admitted her into a room.
Doctors in Magnolia put her on an IV with fluids and antibiotics and she started feeling better. While recovering in the room she received the call from the State Department of Health.
“The health department called and they said it was positive,” she said. “My feet are numb at times, my taste buds are gone, food tastes a bit funny and I’m tired.”
At its worst, she needed to take short breaths because deep breaths would cause her to fall into fits of coughing. Although she felt hot, she never ran a high fever.
“Every day I wake up with anxiety attacks, thinking, ‘It’s not over,’ ” she said.
Thankfully for her, the worst of it does seem to be over. “It was so excruciating — mostly the headache. I felt like my eyeballs would just pop out,” she said. “I wanted to be cold and cool — no noise.”
Now she’s at home making her recovery. She’s afraid she could have exposed her husband and teenaged daughter, who has her own medical issues. Neither has exhibited any symptoms, the family is isolated at home and neighbors leave meals on their porch.
“I’m not as fatigued as I was when I first came home,” the woman said. “My knees aren’t as weak. If it were up to me I’d be going back outside.”
The care she received from Dr. Luke Lampton and others at Beacham made a difference between life and death, she said.
“He could’ve sent me home, but he saw I was really ill,” she said. “I thank God. I needed that antibiotic and the fluids.”
She said she isn’t sure when, where or how she became infected. She travels frequently and had been to New Orleans and Florida in the weeks and months leading up to falling ill.
Weeks ago, she met a close friend at a daiquiri shop in Bogalusa, La., who fell ill and was admitted to the hospital after testing positive for coronavirus on March 17, where she died. The Varnado, La., woman in her 60s had an underlying medical condition.
The Walthall County patient said people need to take the risks associated with the pandemic seriously.
“Take a deep breath and try to understand that this is not a joke. This is the worst I’ve ever felt in my life,” she said. “It’s real, it’s true and I pray that the scientists find a cure and people just stay home and away from it.”
She said she’s thankful to be alive.
“I don’t like to say lucky, I like to say blessed,” she said. “I thank God I made it.”