An Unwelcomed Positive

Editor’s Note: We are committed to telling the authentic stories of the MS movement and being a source of reliable information for people affected by MS. However, every experience is different, and this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have any questions regarding your disease-modifying therapy.
“Your results are positive.”

Those were the words the nurse says to me over the phone. Now, often times in life, you want to hear positive test results. When I received my positive pregnancy test results for both of my children, I was ecstatic! Positive results for COVID-19? Not so much.

First, let me back up to April 22, 2019 and give you some history. This was the day I received my MS diagnosis. While that could be a whole blog by itself, this story will not focus on that. In the year since I have been diagnosed, it has been an emotional and physical rollercoaster. I’ve gone through the stages of grief, and I feel like I am finally beginning to accept my diagnosis.

What I didn’t expect was yet another bump in the road with a COVID-19 diagnosis. I already had a lot on my plate, so why was I given more?

It all began on March 16. I woke up to begin my first official day as a teacher doing e-Learning. I said good morning to my kids and husband, poured my cup of coffee and logged into my computer. There was a lot of uncertainty in the world as we were now in our shelter-in-place. I was feeling pretty good with the exception of some pressure on my chest. I attributed it to some anxiety related to everything going on and didn’t think much of it. This pressure in my chest came and went as the week progressed, but I also noticed some shortness of breath and cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose and slight cough. I started to get a bit nervous (I tend to worry and overthink EVERYTHING!), but I still didn’t think it was anything too serious. Health care workers and prominent figures in our country communicated through TV and social media that if we had any sort of mild illness symptoms to stay home and monitor your health.

On March 24, it was a beautiful and sunny day. We decided to go for a walk as a family and find painted rocks that were hidden in our neighborhood. During the walk, I really struggled with my breathing and pressure in my chest. By the time we were finished with our walk, I was exhausted. I laid on the couch and as the day progressed, my appetite disappeared, the body aches and chills began, and I developed a fever. I was terrified! At that point, I went into my bedroom and told my husband he was sleeping on the couch.

For the next two days, my fever ranged from 101 to 99.1. I caught up on a lot of Netflix shows and movies. I think I took my temperature about every 30 minutes wishing and hoping for it to go away.
I called my neurologist and explained everything that was happening to me. I was supposed to see him for an appointment on Friday, but he suggested I go to immediate care or the emergency room to get checked out.

Upon going to immediate care, a nurse came out to get me, dressed in a face mask and head-to-toe gear, and brought me into a room. She explained that the doctor would call me on the phone to discuss my symptoms while I was in the room. When the doctor called, I explained my symptoms and after a few minutes, the doctor entered the room dressed in the same protective gear. I was asked the standard questions, had my temperature taken as well as a pulse oximeter placed onto my finger. Because of the pressure in my chest, they completed an EKG on me. After, the doctor entered the room again to tell me that my EKG was abnormal and because of my other symptoms, I should go to the ER. 

A-Unwelcomed-Positive-1.jpgI thought to myself, “now something is wrong with my heart too?!” The doctor explained that the ER would be notified and expect me very shortly. So I got in my car, called my husband and just cried. I cried the entire way to the hospital. By now, I was starting to suspect I had COVID-19, and I wanted the support of my family more than anything. But that couldn’t happen. I had to do this myself. Even if I was driven to the hospital by my husband, he wouldn’t have been able to come in. There were no visitors allowed. Though I am a strong person, having to go through this by myself was terrifying.

When I arrived at the ER, two nurses greeted me in the vestibule. Now let me tell you, this was surreal to me. The last time I was at the ER was when I was diagnosed with MS. There was no one in the ER and I didn’t need to wait even one minute. One of the ER doctors asked me about my symptoms and medical history. I told her about my MS diagnosis, and she ordered a COVID-19 test. She jokingly referred to the test as a brain scan, and I would soon find out why. All of this was so overwhelming for me, and I broke down into tears. The nurses consoled me, gave me Kleenex and told me all positive things. Though my family couldn’t be there with me, these individuals were true superheroes. I didn’t know them, but I needed them more than anything right then and there.

Let me tell you, the test is extremely unpleasant. Imagine an extremely long Q-tip-style brush being shoved up your nostril as far as it can go. No wonder they called it a brain scan! The nurses gave me the remote and said to turn on something funny on the TV. I was in the room by myself with my thoughts. This was very dangerous for me. I thought of worse-case scenarios. Will I need oxygen? Will I be put on a ventilator like the people on TV? Will I see my family again? Am I going to die?

Fast forward a few hours and many cries later, I was told everything looked fine – my EKG was normal, and my oxygen levels were a bit lower than normal, but I was breathing and didn’t need any oxygen. I was being released, and I would hear about my test results in 4-8 days. Until my results were in, assume I am positive based upon my symptoms. Those days were going to seem like an eternity until I knew for sure. I walked out of the ER with my folder in hand and mask on my face.

When I got into my car, I immediately called my husband and cried tears of terror and tears of joy for being able to come home. I also called my neurologist to update him on my ER visit, and because of the nature of the DMT I was taking (I’m participating in a clinical trial), he advised I stop taking it and that we would be rescheduling my appointment for a later date.

My phone rang on March 31, five days after my ER visit, and the nurse on the other end stated, “your results are positive for COVID-19.” 

The news was definitely bittersweet. It was closure to finally have an answer, but so scary at the same time. By this time, my fever had been gone for multiple days, the chest pressure was getting slightly better each day, and my shortness of breath was also getting better, but I still wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Each day I fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire based upon my symptoms and receive calls from the COVID-19 hotline nurses about my health. I’ve also answered calls and taken surveys from departments of health. It has been a slow process, but I continue to get a little better each day. Luckily, no one else in my household has developed symptoms or become ill.

As of April 7, all members of our household were out of isolation per our county’s health department recommendations. I can finally be close to my family. I can finally hug my kids. My husband can sleep in bed with me again (don’t worry, I washed the sheets!).

Am I still nervous that I may get worse and/or my family will get sick? Yes. Those thoughts are always there, but my greatest hope is that none of that happens. My other hope is that those who have MS or other chronic illnesses will find some calmness in reading my story. Yes, it is very scary out there right now especially thanks to social media and TV. Everyone’s COVID-19 story will be different (just like MS!) for those that are going through this nightmare. In the end, hopefully this will make me stronger. I am an MS fighter and a COVID-19 survivor!

Editor’s Note: For the latest information and resources related to COVID-19, please visit the Society’s Coronavirus Resources Page. For additional information on disease-modifying treatment guidelines during COVID-19, visit our webpage.
Tags COVID-19      4

Jennifer Kettering

Jennifer is a teacher in the field of special education. She lives in northern Illinois with her husband and two children. Jennifer was diagnosed in April 2019 and does not let her diagnosis hold her back from living her life and doing the things she loves. She hopes others can find hope and positivity in her stories.