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  • Kandis Mascall

Relatively Healthy Dayton Woman Recounts Her Experience With COVID-19, "Is this the end?"

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When one is diagnosed with COVID-19, there is no telling how the virus will affect the body, and that can arguably be the scariest thing about the virus. Enter Tracy Dudley, an executive banker with no history of illness. "I think that's really important for folks to know is that I was a very healthy person. I didn't have any preexisting conditions. I don't smoke cigarettes, I don't drink alcohol at any aggressive rates. I didn't have diabetes. I didn't have a heart condition. I didn't have any condition that would have made me a suspect for COVID," said Dudley.

However, during the first week of November, Dudley says her body didn't feel right, "I felt something different. And, you know, initially, I thought maybe I just had a common cold. I did take the [coronavirus] test the same day reluctantly, because, again, I really just believed I have a common cold, as many people probably do. And my results came back in two or three days, indicating severe COVID-19."

Dudley found it difficult to pinpoint the origin of her infection, which can be tough to do when living in a state and county with high rates of spread. According to Dayton & Montgomery County Public Health, Montgomery County saw the highest spike in November for coronavirus cases.

Unfortunately, for Dudley, the virus became a family affair. Her then 17-year-old son tested positive around the same time, though Dudley is not sure if they infected one another. "He was asymptomatic and did not have any of the same symptoms that I had. My husband also got tested and he tested negative, but between the three of us, we had to quarantine away from each other. So we're in three corners of the house over a period of time."

While the virus seemed to have spared her son, Dudley's illness wreaked havoc on her body. "I had a loss of breath, I had a high temperature, I had muscle soreness, I had headaches, I had a loss of appetite. I had a cough, I had diarrhea. I think I literally had every symptom that you could possibly have, with the exception of the loss of taste and smell," said Dudley

For Dudley, even the basic human function of breathing was an excruciating process. "That soreness of that burning sensation every time you take a deep breath makes you wonder, is this the end?"

But, it wasn't the end. Dudley described long weeks of recovery, but she says that there are still lasting effects, "I still struggle with shortness of breath. I still have brain fog. I still wonder when I'm going to get back to be my normal self and have the same levels of energy."

And though the worst part is seemingly over, Dudley says she encountered some social side effects as well, "It's weird because you didn't expect it. When you're going through it, all you can think is, I just want to get better. At the same time, you feel like you have some level of responsibility to share with folks because you could have exposed them or they could have exposed you. It almost feels like a scarlet letter when you share it because you're trying to be a good citizen and be conscious of the fact that I don't want this to hurt anybody else. But, now there's a taboo where people wonder, are you safe or is it safe to be around you or when is it safe to be around you?"

Fortunately, Dudley had in-home support. Her husband and pharmacist, Eddie Dudley, says the arrival of the coronavirus vaccines could not have come at a better time but the rollout has been a heavy lift, "I think the whole health care system has been overwhelmed by this. They never faced anything like this before. And you have a large number of people that need to be vaccinated. They don't have the staffing. They don't have all the resources. And it really is going to be a challenging situation, not to say they're not going to make every effort they can to try to make it happen, but it is going to be a challenge for them," said Mr. Dudley.

Mr. Dudley works for a large pharmacy chain, which the government has deemed will be one of the main locations for vaccinations. The same month Mrs. Dudley contracted COVID-19, the Trump administration announced the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Strategy for COVID-19 Vaccination. This partnership includes behemoth retail chains such as CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid Corp., The Kroger Co., Walgreens (incl. Duane Reade), Walmart, Inc., and others.

Despite support from the federal government, Mr. Dudley is not sure when his location will be able to start vaccinating the public, "I know they're saying that they're going to be available, but in actuality, we don't know if and when they will be available," said Mr. Dudley.

Additionally, Mr. Dudley says vaccine storage presents a problem for many of the chain pharmacies. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for example, requires storage in subzero temperatures in special refrigerators. "That is a challenge for all the chain pharmacies because that's not something, typically, they would be able to accommodate."

As for Mrs. Dudley, the thought of receiving the rapidly produced coronavirus vaccine was a source of apprehension, but now she says her feelings have changed since winning her COVID battle. "If you'd asked me that same question forty-five days ago or pre COVID, for me, my short answer would be no thanks. I do have family members who have actually received the vaccine without any side effects, to date. And for that reason, it seems positive and something that I would, in fact, do when my time comes," said Mrs. Dudley.