Worthington woman is a COVID-19 long-hauler
Seven weeks after positive COVID-19 test, Susanne Murphy still feeling the lingering effects from the virus.
WORTHINGTON — When Susanne Murphy’s mom was gravely ill last fall, it became more important than ever for the Worthington woman to abide by the COVID-19 precautions. She didn’t want to get sick, knowing she’d be making the trip back home to Illinois at a moment’s notice.
“I was being super careful for weeks,” she said. “I didn’t go anywhere; I wasn’t having anybody over to the house.
“I would never have forgiven myself if I got sick and couldn’t go home for my mom’s final days,” she added.
Murphy’s call to come home came days after Thanksgiving, and she spent the first week of December with her siblings, surrounding their mother with love right up until her death. The small, family-only memorial service took place Dec. 9, and the next day, Murphy made the trek back to Minnesota.
Like her trip to Illinois, she stopped once for gas, donning gloves and her face mask and paying at the pump to avoid contact with others. The return trip also included a stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but she remained outside and away from others during the errand.
Arriving home on Dec. 10, Murphy was exhausted. She’d stayed up nights with her mom, and then experienced all of the emotions of losing the family matriarch.
Sleep hadn’t come easy during those days in Illinois, so it seemed reasonable that on Murphy’s first day at home she’d spend it sleeping.
“I just felt like I was run over,” she recalled.
When her feelings had worsened — she awoke that Saturday with a headache, body aches, a dry cough and pressure in her chest — Murphy was encouraged by a friend to take the COVID-19 saliva test at the Worthington Event Center. She went in at noon on Saturday, and by Sunday evening, the results came in. She tested positive.
Murphy doesn’t know where she was exposed to the virus. She immediately alerted her family, and they were all tested. Not one of them felt sick or tested positive for the virus.
That left Murphy wondering — and waiting out the 14-day quarantine inside her rural Worthington home.
“My neighbors and friends, when they found out, they did the ding-dong-dash,” she shared, noting how they would pull in, leave food on her doorstep and drive away. “I don’t know who orchestrated it or how it happened, but it was really appreciated.”
During this time, Murphy contacted a friend from Cuero, Texas, who is a respiratory therapist. She was given advice that seemed to work well for her — to sleep on her stomach (it takes the pressure off your lungs), to drink as much water as she could, and to get up and move around during television commercials.
Murphy’s quarantine continued until Dec. 26, making for a “very quiet Christmas,” she said.
A couple of days after her quarantine expired, Murphy was again tested for COVID-19. Though the results revealed she was no longer positive for the virus, she was still extremely tired and her whole body hurt.
A follow-up visit with her doctor revealed she had walking pneumonia, which is pneumonia in one lung. Her oxygen level was bouncing back and forth between the 80s and the 90s. Had it stayed in the 80s, Murphy likely would have been hospitalized, but because it fluctuated, she was able to return home to her dog, Mocha, and her cat, Carmello.
“There were days that I got out of the shower and I couldn’t pick up the hair dryer,” she said. “My arms were so heavy.”
As for food, everything she attempted to eat tasted like salt — a sensation that continues today, although it is slowly disappearing.
There are other things Murphy has also noticed since having the novel coronavirus.
“I’ve noticed a loss of concentration, focus and memory,” she said. “I do things on the computer and all of a sudden I’m tired. I’ll lay down for a few minutes and end up sleeping for hours.
“I will not make commitments now because I don’t know when that truck is going to hit me,” she added. “I’ll feel good, walk to the mailbox and it hits me. I struggle for breath, go in and lay down on the couch and I’m out for hours.
“I didn’t even go downstairs for four days because I thought I was too tired to make it back up.”
Three weeks after getting her negative COVID test, Murphy again consulted with her doctor and learned she must be one of the unfortunate ones called a long-hauler — a person with COVID-19 who can’t seem to shake the effects of the virus. The tiredness, joint pain, loss of concentration and other things she’s experienced could linger on for months, she was told.
“I’m taking a baby aspirin a day and just letting it run its course,” Murphy said. “There’s no running about it — it’s slow.
“For those who don’t think (COVID-19) is real, I’m here to tell you it’s the real deal.”
For someone self-described as physically active and healthy, Murphy said she is really surprised by how crummy she feels and how long it’s taking to get back to feeling well. She refuses, though, to give in.
“I just have to adjust to how I feel for the day,” she said.
And, throughout it all, she hasn’t lost her sense of humor.
“I’m glad they call it COVID-19 and not COVID-29, because I’ve sure been eating and drinking a lot,” she said. “I’m very social and I’m a hugger, so this is killing me because I can’t do either.”
With her volunteer role at Sunset Hospice Cottage, Murphy received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 19, with her second dose coming in February.
Until then, Murphy said she wears her mask everywhere when she’s in public because she’s conscientious and cautious. In all honesty, though, she said, “I’m too tired to go out and do stuff.”