A Minnesota nurse is teaching people across social media what it's like to suffer from severe COVID-19, using a unique perspective: her own.
This past week, Ashley Walter took to Facebook to share her experience as a COVID-19 patient, which saw her admitted to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and wanting to "beg my nurse to please intubate me so that I don’t have to feel this way anymore":
The post from Walter — a former ICU nurse herself, and currently working in cardiology at the University of Minnesota, according to her LinkedIn — contains photos of two major life events for the young woman, both happening in 2020.
"Such a weird year for everyone," she writes, "but for me, it had the best day of my life (on the left, my engagement) and the worst day of my life (on the right, hospitalized in the ICU with COVID)."
Her experience with the virus began in late October, when she felt like she had "a bad case of the flu." A week later, she writes, she knew she was in real trouble — thanks to a potentially life-saving device she ordered through Amazon:
It wasn’t until Halloween (day 7 of symptoms), when my pulse oximeter from Amazon arrived, that I knew things were turning a corner for the worst. Honestly, it was the arrival of that pulse oximeter from Amazon that saved my life. I put it on, and it read 88%. I looked at (my fiancé) and told him he needed to take me to the emergency room. By the time I was in the ER, my oxygen saturation was 82%.
She was soon transferred into an ICU, where her condition took a turn for the worse. She came close to being intubated several times, and went from "being able to get up on my own to use the bathroom to getting short of breath just readjusting in bed in a matter of hours."
Additionally, she was also on her own much of the time, as both visitors and hospital staff had to be restricted to prevent transmission of the disease. She was so out of breath, she couldn't even talk with her fiancé or family over FaceTime.
But her condition finally started to turn around thanks partly to some encouragement from a fellow nurse:
But all it took, on Sunday November 8th, was a simple gesture from my nurse. She held my hand, as my respirations were in the 30s and I was crying, and said “I’ve been taking care of COVID patients for 8 months now. I promise you will get through this, you are strong.” She opened my blinds, helped me bathe, and simply told me “today is going to be a good day.”
The following day, Walter was transferred out of the ICU, and a few days later, she was finally sent home.
Her challenges are not over, however. She continues to require oxygen, while "simply showering and getting dressed each day is a work out that leaves me feeling like I just ran 5 miles."
In addition to a number of other difficulties, she's also not sure what the future holds, writing: "I have no idea what my new 'normal' life will look like, and what long term effects I will have from this."
She closes the story with a call for support for her fellow healthcare workers — who face "unacceptable" working conditions due to lack of PPE, among other challenges — and a warning to continue social distancing, even though everyone is tired of it.
"Please be safe this holiday season," she says. "Please protect your loved ones. If I picked up COVID from a group of 6 people, so can you."
Walter has started a blog documenting her COVID-19 journey. You can read it right here.