A video taken Friday, Apr. 30, 2021: The screen shows my friend, a slightly older girl I looked up to in my preteens — sweet, vivacious and oh so cool. But here she is pale, her skin somehow stretched thin, an oxygen tube in her nose, as she lay in a bed at Kingston General Hospital (KGH). I marvel at her strength as she tells her story between laboured breaths, “Today is my first morning waking up in the KGH COVID ward.”
Though struggling to breathe, she is still the same sweet Cindy, grateful, hopeful, “I was admitted yesterday, thank God, after two weeks of being really, really sick and short of breath. It’s unbelievable how crazy this virus is and scary. And that’s really hitting home. So I’m just thankful to be here. Getting good care. And I just pray that I can get better soon, and have such good people around me here, even though I have to be by myself, I know that there are so many people. Good people are praying for me and are with me and with me in heart and mind and soul.”
Here she falters: a whisper and a glimpse at how truly frightened she is, “I just want to get better… I miss my family… Please, take this seriously… It can happen to anyone.”
Then in a moment, selfless Cindy returns, describes another patient’s tribulations and asks for prayers for him, too.
Watching this is when I lost my composure, but this is in no way a story about me. It’s Cindy’s story that I’ve been trusted to share with you. I have known Cindy for probably 40 years, so you will have to forgive me if I throw my journalistic tone to the ether just this once. My interview with Cindy is taken from texts, as she is not yet able to have long conversations and tires easily.
Cindy Mitchell is 46. Both her daughter, Georgia 17, and her husband, Wade 48, also contracted the virus and experienced mild symptoms, but were feeling better within several days of testing positive.
Cindy, on the other hand, got more and more ill over a two week period.
She is sharing her videos because, while not everyone will get COVID-19, “I just want people to know the true reality of what can happen with COVID, never in a million years would I have guessed that I would have had the experience I did.”
“Our daughter first heard she may have been exposed on Thursday, I believe. and got her positive results on Friday. So immediately, Wade and I went to get tested the next morning (Saturday) and had our positive results back Sunday afternoon. I already knew I was positive, as I hadn’t been feeling well since the Friday evening,” she says.
Over the next two weeks she says, “I went to the ER (at Lennox and Addington County Hospital) four times very sick with difficulty breathing and was sent home each time. I was very discouraged.”
But she says, “I kept going back to the hospital (LACH) as I knew something wasn’t right — being so short of breath, etc., and feeling horrible. I’m glad I didn’t stop going to get checked, that’s for sure.”
Luckily, her friend, a nurse, “had been keeping a very close eye on me and really pushed me to go to KGH on Thursday, Apr. 29, where my chest X-ray showed significant changes. They immediately put me on oxygen and admitted me, thankfully.”
She decided to keep a video diary of her time on the Kidd 10 COVID Ward because, “I just want people to know the true reality of what can happen with COVID, never in a million years would I have guessed that I would have had the experience I did.”
Cindy is a nurse herself.
“I can’t imagine how someone with no medical background would deal with this sickness, that is actually a bit scary to think about after my experience. I knew something wasn’t right, and thankfully I had a friend that really pushed me,” she expresses. “Being sent home that many times was very frustrating and, quite frankly, scary when I was so short of breath and having trouble breathing.”
In her second video, Cindy explains that the inflammation in the body being so high “can cause more problems down the road. So I said ‘bring that infusion on, please’, because I wanna just get better.”
Now she explains, “I really need to give the staff at KGH credit for quite possibly saving my life. My CRP (C-Reactive Protein, which indicates inflammation in the body) levels were insanely high (normal high is 10, mine was 250) which could have made me much sicker if they didn’t do something. They offered me a special medical infusion that worked wonders, thank God, I seemed to start to improve after I had it. My C-reactive protein levels began to drop fast, too. Pretty incredible.”
On Sunday, May 2, Cindy says,” A little bit better every day it seems. Thank God. They turned my oxygen down to one today. I still get short of breath when I cough or move, but compared to where I was, I’m a lot better.”
She reiterates, “I hope everybody can learn a little bit from my experience that I never in a million years thought I’d be going through. But this really is a scary thing — it can be for people when you get it. Not everybody will, but when you do it’s scary. Trust me. “
In Monday’s video, Cindy is clearly happy to be finally off the oxygen, “holding my own in bed with no oxygen, my levels aren’t skyrocketing at all, of course. It takes time, but at least I’m able to go without it.”
My cough is still there, it’s not as harsh as it was before, but it’s still there. I have pain on my left side of my lungs that comes and goes. And still short of breath at times, for sure. But all in all, in the right direction. Thank God.”
In her last video from Tuesday, May 4, Cindy is eagerly anticipating a discharge from KGH. “Every day is just a little bit better. I’m happy to say that. I’ll be really happy to get home to my family, and to my dogs. and just be able to rest at home in comfort. ” A minor setback with an infected IV set could have put that in jeopardy.
Happily though, the last video is not taken by Cindy. Georgia records the fantastic moment her mom is returned to her family.
Finally at home, Cindy looks back, “I am sitting here reflecting on the past several weeks with many emotions that come and go. I know I am certainly one of the lucky ones, to be able to come out on the other side of this scary virus. I truly hope and pray that none of you ever have to experience this first hand.”
She says people need to trust their intuition, “My advice would be to never give up if you feel something isn’t right, and keep getting a second third or fourth opinion if you feel you need it.”
She credits her quick recovery to the Nurses and Doctors at KGH, and to all the family, friends and strangers who sent wishes and prayers to keep her fighting.
“I certainly feel very lucky to be able to be home to recover now. Healing will be long and slow, but that’s OK. I just feel so bad for others that aren’t as lucky as I was,” Cindy delineates. “I would like to share my experience so maybe I can help people understand how real and scary this virus really can be. It’s mind-blowing, actually.”