MANALAPAN, NJ — On May 6, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the now-infamous announcement that a majority of the city’s new coronavirus cases — people who had it so badly they needed to be hospitalized — had somehow contracted the virus while primarily staying at home, quarantining away from others.
Click Here: COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 2019
Sharon Getsis, 20, of Manalapan was not surprised: That’s exactly how she got coronavirus, at the beginning of May after months of quarantining at her parents’ home. Her case was so bad she had to be hospitalized at CentraState for a week, and only turned a corner once she was given the experimental drug Remdesivir.
“It’s weird out there,” said Getsis on Friday, now out of the hospital and back at home. “I’ve been on social media and there’s this sense in the past two weeks that everything is OK and we can get back to normal. I get it; nobody wants to be cooped up. But it scares me to think how many people may still be at risk for this.”
For the past two months, she and her parents strictly followed all public health guidelines, she said.
“I wasn’t going out, I wasn’t seeing my friends. I was leaving my house once a week to go to the grocery store and that was always with a mask and gloves on,” the young woman told Patch. “I ordered books from Amazon, so maybe that was it? And my mom had been seeing doctors in April and May. Maybe she brought it home? We really don’t know.”
This spring, Getsis was in her junior year at Lehigh University. A perfectly healthy young woman, with no existing medical conditions, she was actually spending the semester aboard in Prague. That month, all U.S. study abroad programs were abruptly shut down and she was called home.
“On March 13, I came back to Manalapan and I quarantined in my room for two weeks, just as a precaution,” she said.
Life went on like that for all of April, with Getsis signing into virtual classes and only leaving the house once a week for essential groceries, “always with a mask and gloves.”
It was the beginning of May when Getsis said, “I started having these weird night sweats. I would wake up drenched and my whole bed was soaking wet — it was so gross.”
The low-grade fevers started during the day and she felt a cough coming on. Getsis immediately went back to her room to stay away from her parents. But her condition only deteriorated over the next several days.
“The low-grade fever went to a 102-degree fever during the day and night,” she said. “It was like chills and sweating at the same time. I would get under five blankets in my room and still be shivering. I then started having really bad nausea; I couldn’t keep anything down. Not food. I couldn’t even drink water without it coming back up.”
It was the nausea that scared her, and the fact that it was increasingly becoming difficult to breathe.
“I’m young, I’m healthy; I had never really known what shortness of breath was before,” said the Manalapan High School grad. “But I was having coughing fits where I couldn’t catch a full breath. I was like, I cannot breathe. That’s when I said, ‘Dad, I think I need to go to the ER.”
Her parents were nervous to take her. They didn’t want her to get sicker in the hospital or be put on a ventilator, she said. But when they got to CentraState, she was admitted right away and doctors told her it was a good thing she came in.
“My blood oxygen levels were low and they gave me (nasal) oxygen right away, plus fluids because I was so dehydrated,” she said. She had actually been tested for coronavirus a few days prior. “They called me while I was in a hospital and said, ‘The results are negative!’ I was like, that’s funny because I’m hospitalized right now with coronavirus. So now I don’t trust anything.”
Getsis said she thought she would be treated and released, or maybe admitted for one night. CentraState kept her for one week.
“They did a chest X-ray and they said I had pneumonia,” she said. “I just could not catch my breath and I could not inhale.”
In addition to the oxygen and fluids, Getsis was given antibiotics, steroids and anti-blood clot medication.
“I actually was blacking in and out of consciousness because the fevers were so high. I slept most of the time and one night in the middle of the night the nurses came running into my room because my oxygen levels had gotten so low,” she recalled. “They put me on 12 millilitres of oxygen, which is a lot, and a nurse just sat by my bedside saying ‘Breath in, breath out.'”
Unknown to her, CentraState doctors had called her parents and told them their daughter had a very serious case of coroanvirus, and they needed to be aware how bad it was. Her parents and friends never told her and instead sent her cheerful text messages — “Feel better soon!” — to keep her spirits up.
It wasn’t until she was given what Getsis calls “the miracle drug,” the anti-viral Remdesivir that she began to improve. The FDA had actually just approved emergency use of Remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 on May 1, after two promising clinical trials of the drug.
As soon as she was given the drug, she started to feel better and her breathing improved, Getsis said. She is now out the hospital and recuperating at home. But she is slowly being weaned off certain meds, including steroids. She still cannot talk for long periods without getting short of breath. Always petite, she was over 100 pounds while healthy and weighed just 88 pounds when discharged from CentraState.
“I just want people to take it slow,” she said. “Everyone my age was like, I’m worried about giving it to parents and grandparents. But I want young people to know it can just as easily hit one of us. I definitely won’t be going to a bar or restaurant anytime soon this summer.”
Just this week, Patch interviewed this 31-year-old Tinton Falls man who got coronavirus while working as a nurse at Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center; he had a stroke from the virus.