Every day we’re bombarded by COVID-19 statistics. It’s easy to become desensitized to the severity of this pandemic…. until you talk to a survivor and see just how frightening this virus can be.
“I was terrified to be honest with you,” said Audrey Nowak, from Kaukauna.
In a matter of hours, Nowak went from trying to power through some annoying symptoms…
“It came out of nowhere,” she explained. “One minute I was fine then 30 min later I had a headache, like unbelievable, and cough, just annoying cough, nothing really horrible.”
…to fighting for her life.
“Tuesday night I actually taught a class online,” Nowak explained. “By Wednesday, I was in the ICU. It was that fast.”
Dr. Krystal Wasmundt from Aurora Baycare Medical Center was there when Nowak first got to the Emergency Room.
“Audrey was pretty sick.,” said Wasmundt. “Her heart rate was elevated, her blood pressure was up, and she was requiring oxygen.”
Being in the hospital was no guarantee Nowak was out of the woods
“She actually got worse before she got better,” Wasmundt pointed out. “Especially the first night of her hospitalization. Her oxygen needs were increasing”
Wasmundt says the coronavirus is a wild card and the unpredictability is one of the reasons the virus is so dangerous.
“We see people who have the virus and they’re completely asymptomatic and then we also have people that develop life-threatening illnesses,” said Wasmundt.
Nowak says that the unknown also contributes to the terror.
“You definitely feel like you’re dying,” she described. “On top of that, you hear emergencies around you…code this… and doctors coming.”
In fact, at one point Nowak says she was preparing for the worst.
“I was actually thinking ‘I’ve had a beautiful life…’” Nowak remembered.
She says the healthcare workers at Aurora Baycare, all of them, not just the doctors and nurses, were what pulled her through.
“The sweet lady that came in to sweep the room, oh I wish I remembered her name, and smiled at me behind her mask and asked me how I was doing.” Nowak recalled. “Every little thing like that nursed me back to life.”
Nowsak says it’s difficult to even express the extent of her gratitude for her care team at Aurora Bay care.
“It’s indescribable what these men and women are doing for us,” Nowak said. “We’re at war and the doctors and nurses are fighting for us.”
Especially considering the sacrifices healthcare workers are making themselves.
“’We might be seeing 15 or 16 cases of positive COVID patients a day, so that’s just a lot of exposure,” Wasmundt explained. “I think the biggest thing is just the fear of going home and exposing our family and friends.”
Nowak wants to show healthcare workers how much that sacrifice is recognized .
“It’s so demoralizing to face the sadness everyday, so I’ll smile and say, ‘I’m ok now’ and I appreciate it,” she said with a broad smile. “I hope that lifts some of them up.”
Dr. Wasmundt said hospitals could be heading into a perfect storm right now. With the usual illness increase around the holidays, plus the pandemic, there is a real risk doctors could get overloaded with more patients than they’re able to care for. Which is why she said it’s more important now than ever to mask up, wash your hands and keep your distance.