The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Tracy Thompson
the Times 

A Walla Walla woman's experience with the coronavirus

Checking in with a friend who tested positive

 

Courtesy photo

Providence Hospital's Population Health program delivered a care kit to Fraser's home shortly after her diagnosis. It included a thermometer, a pulse oximeter (which checks ones blood oxygen saturation level,) and a First Aid Art Kit assembled at Carnegie Picture Lab, in Walla Walla.

East Coast born and raised, Liz Fraser of Walla Walla is known for her candor. Two weeks ago, she openly let her Facebook friends know that she had tested positive for the Coronavirus. In the post, she joked that she'd "never had a cavity until I needed a root canal...and never had the flu until I got covid (sic)..."

Since then, she's kept her Facebook friends updated with the progress of the virus and was even willing to take some time to talk with me on the phone.

Her journey from becoming symptomatic to getting herself tested for the virus was a swift one.

"In the morning on Friday, (May 8) I was at work and I had some tightness in my chest, underneath my sternum. No shortness of breath or anything like that, just a tight feeling. When I was home for lunch, I checked my temp and it was 99.5, which is not high, but is high for me," she recounted.

A call to her primary care physician at Providence Family Medical in Walla Walla prompted her to visit the center's testing clinic. (Providence also provides COVID-19 testing at their Urgent Care Center.)

"When I got to the doctor, my temp was 100.4. But I didn't feel feverish at all. I was really surprised that I had a fever. I didn't have that body ache or that fuzzy head thing. I didn't feel sick, I just had these interesting symptoms," she continued.

She credits her familiarity with the virus's reported symptoms with her decision, 'almost on a whim' to get tested.

On Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12, this 41-year-old mother of three received a couple of phone calls to alert her to the fact that she had tested positive. 

"The Health Department called me the day after I was tested, just to check in. Then on Sunday, Providence called me with my results, and then my doctor called me, as well."

A contact tracing call from the DCH took place on Monday, which involved her recalling every person she'd seen in the past two weeks.

"Which was pretty easy to do because we've been locked down. If this were like regular times, there is no way, no way I could tell you who I saw. There is definitely a benefit in that way to the stay at home (orders), it was really easy to know where I got it, based on the fact that I have seen such a limited a number of people," she noted.

Fraser shares custody of her 10-year-old daughter and 12 and 14-year-old sons with her ex-husband. The kids just happened to be at their dad's the week she became ill.

As a case manager for a local social service organization, Fraser is considered an essential worker and had been reporting to work. 

"We are essential because we are public health, so we drastically changed our operations from the very beginning. Our offices were closed  to the public, but we were still working, we were doing everything through telemedicine or phones."

Safety precautions had been put in place all over the office, with sanitation protocols for high-touch items such as workstations and doorknobs and the copier. "We were really conscientious about that because we work with vulnerable people," she continued. A large office space provided room for social distancing measures, as well.

Fraser suspects her exposure may have come from a properly socially distanced in-person meeting, but says "For me, it doesn't matter (how I got it), I pump my gas, I go to the store, I touch things. There's no real way of knowing."

Because her kids had been staying with their dad during the time she spent symptomatic, they have not been tested. Her boyfriend received a test which was negative, however, his workplace requires a two-week quarantine period following his exposure.

Friends and loved ones have been supplying her with food and supplies, including a lovingly described Graze asparagus sandwich, and a cream filled Popular Donuts donut.

"Through Population Health, the Department of Health have been sending out these kits to everyone who is at home recovering, it includes a thermometer, a pulse oximeter and a 'First Aid Art Kit.' You get markers and crayons and watercolor paper, it's fun. It's supposed to be about reducing stress in people who are sick," she added.

Fraser admitted to some late-night worries midway through this illness, "I had a scary moment on Sunday, wondering if it would get really bad. What if I get really, really sick and I can't take care of myself, and I'm by myself? What do I do? I definitely had anxiety around that. What if it hits in the middle of the night and I can't breathe?

"I know there are people who would risk exposure to help me, if I needed that, but I don't want people to have to do that," she said, while noting with gratitude that "I definitely have people in my corner." 

As of Monday morning, May 18, Fraser now believes she has been three days symptom free, the span of time the DCH requires to pronounce someone 'recovered.'

On that day, she posted jubilantly to Facebook; "Three-day symptom free countdown, day two: it's really happening guys! I'm so close to being discharged from isolation, I can taste it. Like literally, I can taste things. I have no fever above 100, and no respiratory issues. Yesterday I had intense sinus pain, but that was due to atmospheric pressure change, not COVID-19, so I don't count it as a symptom. Feeling good as gold today, but oh so lonely."

At this point Fraser is on her way to recovering from the virus, but she realizes her journey may give people the wrong impression about the experience and is particularly sensitive to those who don't see the need for the State's precautionary measures, or those who blame people who contract the virus while ill with other comorbidities. Those with underlying illnesses often experience greater health challenges when positive.

"It's not about whether I got super sick, it's about what I can do to someone else. And that's the scary thing. If it were not so heightened right now, I never in a million years would have gone to the doctor. I would be at work right now. And that's the perspective that people need to have. It's not about the healthy person staying healthy, it's about the healthy person getting the sick person sick," said Fraser.

"The asymptomatic stuff scares me, too. If I had literally had not gone to get tested when I did, and had waited like I would normally do, I would never have gone to the doctor. Literally within two hours of having symptoms I went to the doctor. If I had been my regular self, I would have gone to Safeway, it was Mother's Day when I got my results... I would have gone to the store, I would have gone to Bennington..." she said, musing about the possibilities.

And the good news for Liz Fraser continues, as this story was going to press, Fraser celebrated her third symptom-free day. And after a thorough cleaning of her house, she is ready to welcome back her children back into her life.

I for one, am glad that in this climate of information of how to keep ourselves and loved ones safe Fraser was attuned to her symptoms and went in to get tested in a timely manner, saving others in the process.

 

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