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COVID-19 diagnosis provided relief to ‘rollercoaster of uncertainty’

Josh O’Sullivan (left) and Eduardo Figueroa make a rare trip outside their apartment in Long Island City to pick up the necessities of life. Both men contracted COVID-19.

As the Alberta government eases restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Macleod residents are urged to proceed with caution.
That advice comes from Josh O’Sullivan, who was raised in Fort Macleod, now lives in New York, and is struggling after contracting the virus.
“Though New York City and Fort Macleod are very different settings, I think the same level of precaution should be taken,” O’Sullivan said in an interview last week. “We know very little about this virus, and though medical professionals are working tirelessly to save lives and get answers, we all have a part to play in buying time so that we can flatten the curve and understand COVID-19.”
O’Sullivan recommends people wear masks when in public places and continue to observe social distancing to avoid an illness that knocked down both himself and his partner Eduardo Figueroa.
“I know that we’re all suffering from isolation fatigue, and rightfully so, but please keep it up and get creative with ways to socialize from a distance. This is a short but significant moment in our lives and though it seems challenging there are lives at stake.”
“We can and will adjust to this new normal, and though it may not be ideal, it is reality, and I can tell you from experience this virus is very real and very dangerous.”
The COVID-19 journey for O’Sullivan and Figueroa started March 8 with exhaustion, headaches, chills and a fever.
A fever of 102 degrees on March 10 prompted a visit to an urgent care clinic near their apartment. Although the doctor presumed O’Sullivan was positive for COVID-19 tests were only available for those who could confirm direct contact with a positive case.
“The irony was that no one in New York was being tested at that time and thus could not confirm contact with a positive case,” O’Sullivan said.
O’Sullivan and Figueroa believe they contracted the virus March 7 while out with friends, long before New York City went into lockdown on March 22.
“I guess you could say we were early adopters of the lockdown as we didn’t leave the house for several weeks after March 10, given we were presumed positive. We now know that the two friends we grabbed drinks with and several others we ran into the night of March 7 all either had symptoms or were confirmed positive in the weeks following.”
Since they couldn’t be tested to confirm COVID-19 the men grew increasingly frustrated as each day was spent wondering and fearing the worst.
“Of course, as we learned more about the pandemic and testing shortage I understand why we weren’t tested in the early days. However, the scariest thing was that hospitals were being completely flooded with folks needing emergency care, and so the biggest worry was not, ‘Will I get the virus?’ Rather it was, ‘Will I get care if I need it?’”
Even without a diagnosis O’Sullivan and Figueroa treated the symptoms by eating well, hydrating and staying positive.
The virus hit O’Sullivan harder than his partner, with chills and the fever subsiding only to be replaced by a tightness in his chest, a cough and sore throat.
For a few days O’Sullivan’s temperature went from above average to near-hypothermic levels at 95 degrees.
Waves of exhaustion and nausea came and went, but worst of all were the migraine-like headaches that O’Sullivan said still come and last for days.
“I completely lost my senses of taste and smell for about a week,” O’Sullivan added. “I couldn’t even smell the bleach I was cleaning the apartment with.”
On the advice of a friend in the medical field, O’Sullivan and Figueroa used Tylenol to treat their symptoms.
Although uncomfortable physically and dealing with uncertainty, O’Sullivan and Figueroa consider themselves fortunate they did not need hospitalization or medical intervention.
Finally on April 30 — seven weeks after being presumed positive — O’Sullivan and Figueroa went to the same clinic to be tested.
As expected, the tests came back positive which provided some relief from the “rollercoaster of uncertainty.”
O’Sullivan and Figueroa continue to deal with the COVID-19 symptoms.
“I get waves of headaches, still have a slight cough, and when doing at-home workouts I have shortness of breath and we’ve noticed a significant drop in our level of physical endurance,” O’Sullivan said.
“Eduardo and I went from training for this year’s New York City Marathon to being exhausted after a 30-minute home workout, but things are improving slowing.”
Since medical professionals cannot confirm O’Sullivan and Figueroa have COVID-19 immunity even though they have antibodies, they spend most of their time in their 500 sq. ft. apartment in Long Island City, leaving only to get fresh air and essentials — and always wearing masks.
“We count ourselves lucky to have jobs and the ability to work from home. We order all our groceries on-line though delivery slots are scarce, and we are becoming much better cooks. We are adjusting just like folks at home in Fort Macleod. It’s different, but it’s necessary.”
“Please continue to take this seriously, support local businesses as much as possible, and most of all be grateful for the front-line workers and researchers who are risking their lives in order to get ours back to some kind of normal.
Having recovered from COVID-19, O’Sullivan and Figueroa are working with the Convalescent Plasma Program at Mount Sinai Health System to donate blood plasma to those in serious condition.

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