This week on Minnesota Native News, concern about falling off the Covid cliff and the story of how one patient Is climbing back to health.
State health officials have repeatedly said they’re concerned about the summer’s high positivity rate and high number of cases. So they’ve ramped up testing and enforcement to keep the state from a free-fall.
“I guess what the analogy we’ve used is we’re really walking on the edge of the cliff. And we’re grateful that we haven’t fallen off, but we have not moved away from the edge of the cliff. So the potential for going over the edge is still there. And I think that’s something that we really want to be attentive to,” said Kris Ehresman, infectious disease director for the Minnesota Department of Health.
Laurie Stern has the story of one woman who got so sick from Covid, she was afraid she might die. Now she wants people to learn from her experience.
Sharon Walker is enrolled at White Earth and a nurse practitioner for the Indian Health Service in Cass Lake. In early July she went to work even though she hadn’t been feeling well. She had a fever, no energy and no appetite. Her supervisor suggested a COVID test and sent her home.
The results were positive and she was worse the next day. Her husband drove her to the E.R. where she used a special entrance for Covid patients.
“At first the doctor thought he was gonna send me home and I just didn’t feel good. I just felt like I don’t think I can go home like this because I was so weak,” said Walker.
Sharon was surprised to find herself so sick. She never smoked, was generally healthy and thought her immune system was strong. But in the hospital she got worse.
“I was just awful. I couldn’t even do nothing. And every time I moved my head, turned my head I would cough I had a really bad cough I would turn move anything on my body and anything I moved, I would cough. And the weird thing is, I could not cough anything up,” she said.
Oxygen helped, and after 5 days, she was well enough to go home. That was more than two months ago. She went back to work after Labor Day, but she’s still not fully recovered
“I still get short of breath and it’s been two weeks. But I just push myself and hang in there. The first week back I saw two positives and the second week back I saw two positives.”
Sharon works in the respiratory clinic, so she gives A LOT of Covid tests. It’s the rapid test, so patients wait only 15 minutes for results.
Walker says she sometimes let’s the patient know she had COVID at one point.
“It just depends on because I just give him a little education about it. You know, everybody is affected by it differently.” said Walker.
Although she doesn’t have the same energy as before she is “kind of” glad to be back at work.
“I don’t have to sit at home and do nothing, but the only thing is, I don’t have that kind of energy that I had before I got sick. I don’t have that back here,” said Walker. “That’s the only thing,I get tired really easy.”
Sharon says some people still don’t seem to understand how serious Covid can be – and how easily it spreads. She’s been in stores where customers don’t wear masks – and she wishes employers including the casino would testing workers every day.
In White Earth Nation, Sharon was one of the earliest – maybe THE earliest reported cases. That number is now over 70.
I called Dr. Claudia Cohn, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and director of the Blood Bank Laboratory for M Health Fairview. I wanted to ask her about convalescent plasma: Whether people like Sharon could or should donate and whether it’s being used to treat COVID-19 patients. The short answer is yes and yes
When you donate, it takes 90 minutes. And there is some initial discomfort because there’s a needle involved. But after that first minute of fear, and slight pain, it’s painless. When you donate your plasma you are not diminishing your own immune system. So you stay safe and healthy. When you donate, you donate enough for two to three units of convalescent plasma. So if it truly is efficacious, which we don’t know yet But if it is, then that’s potentially helping two to three lives, which is huge. And if you go back and donate again, then that’s even more.” said Dr. Claudia Cohn.
Dr. Cohn said studies are under way to find out more about how convalescent plasma works and how effective it actually is – meanwhile doctors are confident is does no harm.
Dr. Cohn also mentioned a couple of resources for Covid patients. One is Survivor Corps.
The other is a website called “The Fight Is In Us.” That is specifically for people who’ve had COVID to learn more about how and where to donate.
Laurie Stern reporting for Minnesota Native News