Lisa Taylor couldn't believe what was happening as she woke up in a hospital bed to nurses in hazmat suits and protective face gear.
"I thought I was dreaming, or in a sci-fi movie,” she said. “I didn't know what was happening."
Taylor, 49, had been suffering from severe headaches, pressure in her face and sensitivity to light.
"I've never had chronic headaches like the ones I was suffering from," said Taylor, who runs the Loving Hands Daycare and Preschool in her home, "but I knew it was more than a headache when I couldn't walk up the stairs in our home. I just had to stop, and gain enough strength to get back up the stairs.
"It wasn't like I was totally out of breath; it was more like I was just exhausted, like I had run a marathon."
A video chat with a doctor came up with a diagnosis of some kind of flu, and she says COVID-19 was never mentioned.
“We decided that it would be best to ride out the illness, which we believed was the flu, at our lake home,” Lisa said.
"I don't know why I thought I would feel better at our lake house, I guess just because I always look so forward to going there and just getting away from everything,” she said. “That's when it happened."
Within one day "it" was a total breakdown of her body.
"Anyone who knows me know how much I like to exercise, and then I'll put on my makeup and do my hair – I've always been full of energy – but while we were at the lake, I felt literally like I was going not going to be able to make it to the car to go to the hospital,” she said.
“I was still thinking I had the flu or something because I had had a video visit with my doctor and he gave me medicine for a sinus infection – because I had the severe headache. At this point I thought maybe they had misdiagnosed a sinus infection. It felt more like the flu.”
"While at the lake I began to deteriorate rapidly,” she said. “I was washing my hair and I couldn't finish. Nothing was working; I had to lie down in the bathtub just to get the soap out of my hair. I couldn't stand up, I couldn't do anything."
But she and her husband were still wondering what was wrong because she did not have the classic COVID-19 symptoms, a dry cough and shortness of breath or fever.
Wade took his wife to the hospital, where she was rushed to the emergency room.
"That was on Sunday, March 29th," she said. "They did a chest X-ray and tested me for COVID-19 – and here's the strange part. I didn't find out that I actually had the coronavirus until the following Tuesday – when my husband told me."
Wade had received a call from the Jackson County Health Department and was told his wife had COVID-19. Before he could even digest the diagnosis, he was asked all sorts of questions about who we had been in contact with and how she had felt before arriving at the hospital – questions that were difficult to answer because he was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that his wife had tested positive for coronavirus.
“It felt like I had the flu times 50 and I was going to die," Lisa said, “No one ever told me what was wrong with me. Now, I was so sick, uninformed, isolated and scared. I really got scared when Wade told me that I had COVID-19."
When it was determined that Lisa had COVID-19 she was rushed from her hospital room to a makeshift COVID-19 ward with two other patients.
"It was like a scene from the movie ‘ET,’" she said. "Everyone was in haz-mat suits with masks. There was tape over the door, and I was terrified. They had on gloves, face shield, and I could tell they didn't want to come in contact with me, and that made it even scarier."
She was now dealing with the fact that she had the COVID-19 virus, along with battling the severe headaches.
"I just cried a lot," she said. "I know they must have thought I was difficult, but I really do not think they were aware of the physical and cognizant battle that was taking place in the four walls of my room.”
“It was so frightening – especially when I heard another patient coughing and gasping for air, that made it even more frightening. I laid in bed wondering if that was going to eventually be me. The one question I kept asking was, ‘Am I getting better?’”
“No one had answers for me as they were navigating uncharted territories. As we gain experience it is my hope that there are better systems and practices in place now.
"And I still had that headache. I'll never forget that intense pain as long as I live – well, I'll never forget any of this. But I also want the nurses to know how much I appreciate that they put their lives on the line every day for someone like me, and I want to thank them for that."
After four days in the hospital, Taylor and her husband felt like it was best for her to return home.
"I got home, and Wade was amazing – anything I needed, he was right there for me," she said. "I know the nurses were instructed to get in and get out as quickly as possible, but I needed some TLC, and I got it at home."
Lisa says it’s important to tell her story to let those know who contact the virus that there is hope for a full recovery.
"It's the worst thing I've ever been through, but I'm back home with my family,” she said. “After being quarantined for 14 days I was allowed to resume my daily routine, and my kids were able to come back to preschool. I will never again take for granted being able to be with the ones I love. Because of this experience I value the small things more than ever before.”
"If I could offer any advice, it would be to seek medical attention as quickly as possible,” she said. “There was talk that I might have had the COVID-19 eight-ten days before I went to the ER.”
She added, “It’s better to err on the side of caution, get tested and find out what's happening."