Woman describes coronavirus hospitalization: ‘I would cough so bad, it became like I was drowning’

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Buffalo woman is sharing her story of being hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

More than two weeks ago, Nicki Fernandes said she was hanging out with friends for St. Patrick’s Day. It was a Sunday. When she got home, she had a burning sore throat.

About five days later, things took a turn.

“The shortness of breath became more severe, (the) fever was getting higher, I was more lethargic, fatigued, (there was) pain in my neck and head, I lost my appetite, (and) I started to feel severe nausea,” Fernandes said.

Fernandes went to a local hospital twice. The staff there sent her home both times, without getting a coronavirus test.

“I would cough so bad, I couldn’t even breath,” she said. “It became like I was drowning.”

After a call from her concerned doctor, she went to a different hospital: Buffalo General. There, she was finally tested and was told she was going to get admitted. That test did come back positive.

“It was my first time going to the emergency room and it was completely empty.”

She said the 15th and 16th floors of the hospital are dedicated to coronavirus patients, and that’s where she was sent. She thanks all the medical personnel who helped treat her, saying they put their lives on the line every time they came in her room.

“They were in full garb, they had double masks on, eye goggles on, their heads were covered,” she said. “They removed their outer shell of whatever they were wearing and every time they left my room, it went in my garbage and they had fresh stuff outside.”

She said the only treatment she could receive was cough medicine, Tylenol and oxygen. After four days, she was sent home feeling a lot better.

But even now, 17 days after her initial symptoms began, Fernandes still has an intense cough. And she has a message for others, regarding social distancing.

“I wouldn’t want to be the person out there that gave this to someone who can’t recover, that would destroy me,” she said. “And that’s the position you’re putting someone in if you’re not staying home and staying isolated.”

Fernandes said she has no underlying health issues, and doesn’t smoke. Her doctor told her she must stay at home until April 9th.

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