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'I really felt I could die': Billings COVID-19 survivor shares story of recovery

Posted at 3:26 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 17:26:03-04

A Billings woman who contracted the COVID-19 virus said Friday she feared for her life, struggled to breathe and felt her body become fatigued all while suffering for days at a Billings hospital.

Rachel asked Q2 News not to disclose her face or last name in this story for privacy reasons because she is an essential worker at a local grocery store.

She is now at home resting comfortably after spending spent the last 14 days at Billings Clinic. Hospital officials confirmed her condition Friday. Rachel was released Thursday after having to pass a series of tests, including a lung capacity and breathing test.

She said the virus shook her to her core, leaving her fearful for her own life.

“This is horrible,” she said. “This is the first time in my life, and I’ve been in the hospital a lot…. the first time in my life that I really felt that I could die.”

Billings COVID-19 survivor tells her story

Rachel says it started with her husband experiencing symptoms first. However, when he was taken to the emergency room and tested, he was diagnosed with pneumonia instead of coronavirus.

Then she started to become ill.

“And 24 hours later, I had the fever and the chills and cough. But I still didn’t think, because he was negative, I didn’t think anything,” said Rachel.

When she showed up to get tested, she says she was admitted right away. Nurses began giving her oxygen, and she felt an increasing struggle to breath as the days went on.

“And they listened to me, and they admitted me and they put me on 50 liters of oxygen immediately,” she said.

Her days in the hospital were spent mostly sleeping and trying to regain any strength she could after the virus depleted her body.

She recalls how the virus took her body hostage, and she wants others to know symptoms are far more intense than anything she’s ever experienced, including the flu.

“People say, oh it’s just the flu, it’s just the flu. No, it’s not the flu,” she said. “If I can stress that a million times, it is not the flu.”

Looking back, she wonders where she got the virus. Rachel says she only works one day a week at her job, and she and her family took calls for social distancing very seriously.

“When I found out, I was like, how is this even possible?” she said. “I didn’t know where I got it because we didn’t go anywhere.”

Now, she is hoping her experience with the virus can provide some understanding and guidance for others when it comes to taking precautions to avoid it.

“Please be diligent, please listen to the guidelines. That’s what they’re there for. They’re a protection.”

And Rachel can’t give enough praise to hospital staff for their help in seeing her survive the virus.

She says, not once did she ever feel lonely.