When Shantay Carter first got sick, she thought it was the flu.
“I’ve never had the flu,” said Carter, who is a nurse and the founder of a nonprofit in her community. What started as a sore throat turned out to be the CCP virus, known as novel coronavirus. But almost exactly two weeks after testing positive, Carter has recovered.
On March 15, Carter had a sore throat and dismissed it as being tired. But the next day she had specific aches: pain under her ribs on the right side, at the bottom of her lungs, and in her back. She was dehydrated no matter how much water she was drinking. By March 17, she woke up feeling so bad, she had to go to urgent care.
There, doctors took her vital signs, and everything was within the range of what is considered normal. But Carter knows her body and knew that the signs were elevated from what was typical for her, and she let her doctors know.
She got a swab test for COVID-19 and was prescribed cough medicine, which helped, and three days later, the test came back positive.
The CDC lists the first three symptoms as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Carter says to not dismiss these, and to really monitor your health if you’re noticing symptoms, because the illness can hit you fast.
The day before she rushed to urgent care, she might have dismissed her aches if she wasn’t paying attention and realizing how atypical they were for her body. Carter says that as a health professional, she has an advantage in this, but anyone can check their temperature and blood pressure and even oxygen levels.
Keeping Anxiety at Bay
News that Carter was sick caused quite a stir among family and friends.
“I was scared and anxious, and then my family members were starting to get anxious,” she said. Then she realized that if they were anxious and calling her and crying day in and day out during her self isolation, it was only making Carter more unnerved herself. “I had to try to put the brave face on and stay calm so they could stay calm.”
Calmness is crucial, because the respiratory disease causes shortness of breath, and anxiety makes it even worse, Carter said. She normally starts and ends her day with meditation, and she made sure to do so during her self quarantine, to calm her mind and keep anxiety at bay.
Anxiety makes the body constrict, and makes the mind lose focus and forget to calmly breathe. The tension in the body because of the aches compounds it; Carter says keeping calm will be a conscious effort.
Carter also warns others to not make the same mistake she did: She took ibuprofen and had a bad reaction to it, as some patients might.
“My symptoms were 10 times worse, and that day, I felt like I was literally dying,” she said. “I had shortness of breath, I felt like someone who had congestive heart failure, where their lungs were full of fluid; I felt like that and started panicking a little bit, and then I had to try to calm myself down to think through what to do.”
Remedies at Home
Carter said thankfully she had close friends who supported her through this time. Sorority sisters would stop by to drop off care packages filled with vitamin C-rich things like oranges and orange juice, plus essentials Carter couldn’t leave home to buy.
“I was taking vitamin C, zinc, B-12, I’ve been drinking a lot of hot fluids, so lemon water,” she said. “I’ve also done a vapor steaming, where I boil orange peels, a clove of garlic, and some sea salt. … That helped me open my nasal passages and helped me with my breathing.”
Carter, like most patients, also lost her sense of taste and smell, which she didn’t realize was a symptom until she had tested positive and was staying at home, researching the virus in her downtime. Her senses are now coming back.
She made sure to get a lot of rest, kept up her vitamin C intake, hydrated, and gargled saltwater, and also tried to keep moving so she wasn’t stuck in bed the whole time.
“I’m really just trying to stay positive,” Carter said.
By March 29, the tightness in her chest and difficulty breathing went away as quickly as it had come. Carter was advised to stay quarantined until three consecutive days of being asymptomatic, so she is hopeful this will be over the next few days. Her sore throat lingered on March 31, so she’s waiting it out.
Carter feels blessed she was able to recover, but now she’s looking forward and scheduling appointments with her primary care physician to get her pulmonary health checked out and make sure she has no lasting issues.
Carter does a lot of community work, especially as a role model with her organization Women Of Integrity Inc. Because she wasn’t physically present the past two weeks, she wants to use her social media to educate her network.
Having spent much of her downtime researching the virus these past two weeks, Carter is trying to educate her community, because she has seen that not everyone has taken the threat of the virus seriously.
Being in recovery has taught her that people really need to know their bodies, and know what their vitals typically are, as Carter did when she first landed in urgent care.
“I was able to know my body was in distress. I think people should really focus on knowing that, and not be afraid to advocate for themselves if they know something’s wrong,” she said. “And really practice social distancing and take it seriously!” Not everyone who contracts the virus is sick; people can be asymptomatic and still contagious.
“Proper hand washing techniques can kill a lot of germs to deal with infections, if people actually took the time to properly wash their hands, disinfect their home, take the social distancing seriously,” Carter said.