It’s so easy to read so much negativity in the news today, that we can often overlook some of the good news around us. Amelia Peck reminds us of Marcy Bursac and her COVID-19 recovery story of hope.
A COVID-19 Recovery Story
As part of our series of COVID-19 recovery stories, this one comes from an old friend from college. While we hadn’t spoken in many years, I follow her story on social media seeing the amazing work she does and her beautiful family. When I saw her post about her COVID recovery, she wrote about how grateful she was to hug her children, and I remember physically feeling the angst and pain of not being able to hold my own kids. I wondered how I would explain to them that I had to be kept away and unable to touch them. It’s a complication so many parents are experiencing during this time who have tested positive or are essential workers and are selflessly exposed every day to the coronavirus.
Mom to humans and canine, Marcy Bursac lives just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. She and her husband of almost 12 years adopted a sibling pair Izzy (8) and Aiden (10) through the foster care system about six years ago. Along with their dogs, Phoebe and Jacques, they are a brave family who faced the reality of the coronavirus head-on.
Marcy is a multi-talented woman outside the home too. She made a pivot a few years ago from nonprofit philanthropy into computer programming to better align her schedule with her family. She learned to code through LaunchCode, a nonprofit programming school and now she works for a large telecommunications company, writing software for their internal needs.
Can you describe when your first felt symptoms and then when you realized what you were feeling was COVID-19?
After having a healthy Saturday, I woke up Easter Sunday morning with my head feeling cloudy. It was hard to think and my energy level was super slow. I tried to make sheet pancakes and had a hard time actually using my wet and dry ingredient containers to make the recipe. I found this really odd. Like my ability to think and plan was out the window.
I went to bed mid-morning and stayed there pretty much all day. I tried to join my family at the table for dinner but I could barely keep my head up and I was not hungry. My husband noticed I had a gross cough that seemed to come out of nowhere. I also had a fever, but I did not want to schedule an urgent care visit quite yet and I figured the symptoms might pass quickly.
When I woke up Monday morning it took every ounce of energy I had to take a five-minute shower and to not fall over while standing to do so. I messaged my team that I would be taking a sick day. I stayed in bed nearly all day again. At this point, my husband and I thought it would be wise if I just stayed in our bedroom with the door shut away from everyone else. The dogs were happy to keep me company as they napped.
Since I wasn’t feeling any better, I went ahead and made myself an urgent care appointment after an afternoon nap. The physician assistant told me it sounded like I had pneumonia and COVID-19 and that I would need to visit a testing tent to be sure. Our appointment was ending just as the tents were closing so she told me that I could either go to an ER tent 25 minutes away or wait until the next day. The thought of driving 25 minutes across town when a simple shower was difficult did not sound like something I wanted to do. So I went back to sleep.
Heading to the ER
Around 8 pm that night I woke up really hot and took my temperature. My thermometer read 105. I texted my husband and told him I should go to our local hospital’s ER. So I drove to the ER. Upon arrival, my temp was 103.
I stayed at the hospital for about four and a half hours. They tried Tylenol and later ibuprofen. After testing, the physician assistant confirmed I had pneumonia and COVID-19.
Barriers to Coronavirus Testing
I asked if they were going to give me a test for the virus and was told that my state had a low supply. Unless I was at least 50 years old or had trouble breathing, I couldn’t be tested. They also mentioned that in their experience 30% of positive cases were testing negative so they did not trust the test.
I had a follow up virtual visit with my primary physician and they encouraged me to get tested. So, I went to a tent test site only to be denied the test once more. The urgent care tent was a different hospital brand but they had the same rules about testing.
My dad suggested calling the health department. So I talked with my county health department and they told me that they would pass my information along to the supervisor. I may or may not get a callback. Then, I called my state health department and the nurse was shocked I had been denied testing given my symptoms. The county health department supervisor returned my call and confirmed the hospital did not have to test me given the low quantity of tests available. He said that had I called an ambulance to go to the ER, I would have been tested right away.
The next morning the nurse from the state health department called back. She had confirmed with her team that no one knew why I was denied testing twice. She empathized with how that felt wrong.
Coronavirus Precautions at Home
I was separated from the other humans in my home. My husband was the only one who came into our bedroom which was temporarily just mine. He wore a mask when serving meals and giving me water
What Helped Marcy with Her COVID-19 Recovery?
- Her Husband – He wore the hats of teacher, father, chef, and nurse without complaint.
- Her Kids – They had movie parties. The kids’ rooms are in an upstairs loft and they spoke through a baby monitor. She did bedtime prayers with them and woke them up for school even though in isolation.
- Accepting Help – One of her close friends encouraged her by saying that allowing people to help was allowing them to use their gifts. So she told herself she would learn to say “yes” and “thank you” during this time.
- Disney+ – Since I was spending a lot of time in my bed, I watched all three High School Musical movies and the entire High School Musical The Musical Series.
What was an early sign you were getting better?
Being able to stop taking Tylenol for my fever, and the fever staying away. The doctors told me I would no longer be contagious after being fever-free for 72 hours. This also meant I could leave my bedroom. So this was a big milestone. I had decided to stop the Tylenol two days after the ER visit because I realized I could not go to 72 hours without Tylenol if I was still taking Tylenol.
What Marcy Wants You to Know about COVID-19 Recovery
- If you look for bright spots, you can find them.
- Despite all my present stressors (COVID, job loss, furlough, school at home, etc.), one of the best uplifting distractions has been video calling. I got to put my 2-year-old niece in Ohio to bed a couple of nights. I got to catch up with my mom, and friends even scheduled a group Zoom call while I was in isolation. We talked about whatever we wanted and I didn’t have makeup on. It brightened my spirit to feel included, even though I felt alone.
- When you hear someone has COVID-19, don’t ask them how they got it and don’t offer medical advice for breathing. Just love, encourage and listen to them.