My intent with this article is to tell you about my experience with COVID-19 in the USA and the impact it had on my family. My name is Diana. My husband, daughter (age 5), and I have been living in Pasadena for a year and a half.

About a year ago, I started working as a volunteer at a senior citizen health facility in Pasadena and later became an employee. At first, I worked full time, but this year I decided to only work weekends. The place where I work is like a hospital and its residents suffer from Alzheimer's, senile dementia or are in palliative care, so their care requires a lot of attention.

In early March this year, two and a half months ago, I was asked to work extra days. I accepted, since I saw no major problem at the time and, above all, I felt the need to help. At that time, the WHO had not yet declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the California authorities had yet to declare a stay-at-home order. Due to the nature of my work, I was aware that I had to take all possible biosecurity measures to safeguard my health, that of the residents, my family, and anyone close to me. As the days passed, the stay-at-home order came into force, so my husband and daughter stayed home, and we strictly maintained social distancing.

About two months ago, a few hours into the day, I began to feel tired and weak to the point of fading, and I was unable to stand. In the infirmary of my work they took my vital signs. I had very low blood pressure, so that day I went home to rest. The next day I felt better and went to work again. After an hour I felt bad again, but this time I passed out. Someone called 911, paramedics arrived and took my vital signs. Again, I had low blood pressure. At that time, I asked the paramedics if they could test me for COVID-19, but they told me that it was not necessary since I had no symptoms and they preferred not to risk taking me to the hospital. By then, there were several cases of COVID-19 in the hospital, so they sent me home to rest. That same day I made the decision to isolate myself from the rest of my family.

At the same time, I started to get a severe headache, dizziness and a weakness that left me unable to stand. So, this time I went to a private clinic where they performed all the routine exams, including a COVID-19 test, to figure out what was causing these symptoms. Four days later they gave me the results and confirmed that I was positive for COVID-19.

From then on, my health gradually deteriorated. More than once we had to call the paramedics and even go to the hospital emergency room, due to the severity of my symptoms. But instead of fever or shortness of breath, I had severe orthostatic hypotension (a form of low blood pressure caused by getting up from sitting or lying down) accompanied by an abnormal heart rhythm, constant fainting, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, muscle weakness, severe headaches, and blurred vision. Due to the need to constantly monitor myself at home and not being able to be in a hospital because even more serious cases COVID-19 were being treated, my husband had to buy medical devices such as a blood pressure and oxygen monitor. With these readings, we videocalled my doctor to share my vital signs. This made it easier for her to give a specific diagnosis and treatment; and in cases of emergency, refer me to the hospital.

Fifteen days after they confirmed that I had COVID-19, the Pasadena health department sent me a notification that it was no longer contagious and that I could continue with my work activities. Even though it’s possible by that time I was no longer contagious, the virus had deteriorated my health to such an extent that my doctor explained that I was at risk of a heart attack or stroke if my vital signs were not regulated. So, she increased the dose of my medications, waiting to see the reaction. I remember two nights in a row when my blood pressure dropped so low and my heart rate went up to the point that paramedics could not explain how I did not suffer further damage.

After 30 days, with my health utterly damaged, the treatment I had been prescribed began to take effect and my blood pressure and heart rate started to get under control. But, then, new symptoms appeared including numbness of my extremities accompanied by tingling and overall weakness, making it difficult for me to stay upright or use my arms. Half of my face was tingling, and the chest pain and blurred vision persisted. On my first in-person appointment with my doctor, she explained that the severity of the COVID-19 infection caused issues with my nervous system and that physical and laboratory examinations indicated that I had Guillain Barre syndrome.

I am still in therapy and undergoing treatment to stabilize my entire nervous system. I am taking about a dozen pills daily, which cause various side effects. But because I am a little bit better, being able to hug and kiss my family is a godsend and I try to bear the side effects. There are situations in which we are not in control and cannot do much, and this is where God comes in. So, faith in prayer and positivism played a huge role in my recovery. This situation helped increase our faith as a family and as a result my husband and daughter are healthy, and I am alive despite the circumstances. God never released us from his hand.

When I got COVID-19, the pandemic had just started in California, so the doctors did not have much information. If it is difficult to be sick, imagine being sick from a new disease, which does not have a vaccine and for which there is no specific treatment. Moreover, this disease has caused a socioeconomic impact, which can be as dangerous as the disease itself.

There were so many occasions when I felt so vulnerable in this situation, like the time I had to say goodbye to my husband and my mother, just in case, because I felt that I was dying. Or every time I felt very ill but I was scared to go to the hospital emergency room because I knew I was going to be alone and I was terrified at the idea of not being able to return to my family. I felt sad and powerless every day when I could not take care of my daughter. And over time my fear that my daughter and my husband would get sick became greater.

Because of this I isolated for 40 days, without being able to see my daughter, only listen to her. At times, we felt helpless and missed the support of our families overseas. A few days ago, my husband took my daughter out to play and she was not even 5 minutes away. When they returned, she told me that she was afraid to leave in case she got ill and made me sick too. My daughter is still little, but I also share with her that fear of going out.

As a result of my reporting to my work that I had the virus, staff were tested for COVID-19. Approximately 85% of the staff tested positive for COVID-19 and many of the residents have died. This is something I want to emphasize. Most of the staff had no symptoms and would not have been tested otherwise. For the few cases that had symptoms, these were very mild, unlike my case.

The COVID-19 virus is like Russian roulette, it is not known for sure how it will attack your immune system. It may go unnoticed without major problems, but it may also put your life at risk or be fatal. For this reason, we must be aware that our actions can directly or indirectly affect others. So, tests, using facemasks and social distancing are essential to prevent transmission of the virus. This disease is also affected by socioeconomic conditions. For example, to be able to isolate yourself effectively, it is recommended to have a room with ventilation and, if possible, a bathroom for the exclusive use of the infected person. But many of the people who work in the health sector do not have those conditions, since they live with their families in a single room and with a single bathroom for the use of the whole family, given that the rent is very expensive.

This experience has had a few positive aspects: I can mention the solidarity of my family, coworkers, friends, and neighbors. They supported us by shopping for us at the supermarket. More than once they brought cooked food, cake, toys, and games for my daughter, and stayed in touch. But above all they helped us with their prayers and goodwill. I also want to emphasize the exceptional care I received, and continue to receive, from my doctor.

Also, I want to give a special thanks to Caltech for all the support they gave us during our isolation, including providing food, products for daily use and personal protection items, so that we did not have to leave the house and our isolation was more effective. They were always aware of the physical and psychological state of myself and my family, while respecting our privacy.

An infinite thanks must be given to the hero of this story: my husband. He, who with love and patience, cared for us and continues to care of my daughter and me. He is the best caretaker I could have. He carried me many times in his arms because I was not able to stand up. On several occasions he did not sleep so that he could take care of me in the most difficult moments. Even so, he got up the next day to clean, cook and do schoolwork with our daughter and at night he worked on his duties.

Mine is just one of hundreds of thousands of stories of people with COVID-19 and, alas, there will be more in the future and many which will not be told. Something is clear to me – despite this being the same disease that afflicts millions, all the stories are different.

And that is my experience having COVID-19 and I hope it is helpful to you. In case you want to know more or talk about this, feel free to write to me at my email: trombiz@yahoo.com.