Mikaela Schriver has had countless colds in her life, so she didn’t think much about it when she got what she thought was a sinus infection this June. That all changed when she sat down for breakfast.
“I could feel the crunch of the bacon, but it had no flavor,” says Schriver, a physical therapist at Cox Branson. “My coffee tasted watered down and my cinnamon breakfast biscuit was bland. I knew something was wrong.”
Schriver did one more quick test of her senses. “I grabbed the lavender essential oil stick from my desk drawer,” she explains. “It has a super strong scent. As soon as I twisted off the cap, my co-workers could smell it from across the room. I put it right up to my nose. I smelled nothing.”
In that moment, Schriver had a gut feeling she had COVID-19. She immediately left work, and an official test confirmed she had the virus three days later.
“The crazy thing is I would have probably just kept taking cold medicine if I didn’t have that loss of smell and taste,” she says. “How scary that I could have just been walking around infecting people, including people who may have a harder time fighting it off!”
She reports, a few days after testing positive, she began to have mild shortness of breath. Nothing too serious, but she would need to sit down to wait for the coffee to brew instead of standing next to the pot. The humidity of a hot shower would also wear her out.
“I didn’t shower for probably three days,” she recalls. “I told my husband there was no way he was getting out of this adventure COVID-free. I was right. He, too, tested positive.”
While she and her husband Alex were both able to physically recover at home, Schriver says the mental health impact of a COVID diagnosis is something she didn’t see coming.
“It’s really hard trying to live as a couple sleeping in separate rooms and trying to live separate lives,” she says. “My contagious period was over before his, so I wanted to make sure I stayed away from him because science isn’t 100% that we can’t catch this thing again.”
She also has guilt that she could have exposed her family in those early days of the illness when she thought it was just a cold.
“My mother-in-law has MS and my father-in-law had cancer last fall. They are vulnerable. I kept feeling the guilt that I might have exposed them even though I didn’t mean to. That’s what could happen to any of us if we’re walking around without a mask. We may be spreading a virus we don’t know we have.”
So far, Schriver’s husband is the only one in her "close contacts while contagious" who was also diagnosed with COVID.
Schriver considers herself lucky that she had enough paid vacation time at CoxHealth to ease the financial burden of missing two weeks of work.
“I know not everyone has that luxury,” she says. “If you are infected or exposed, you are required to miss work. If you’re out and about without a mask, you’re taking the chance of putting yourself as well as your family and friends in that financial situation. It’s risky behavior.”
Schriver says she’s much more aware about the importance of masking up in the community now that she’s been through the sickness and seen its impact first hand. It has also strengthened her position on the proposed masking ordinance in Branson.
“They told us when the city was re-opened it would be up to each of us as an individual to do our part to slow the spread,” she says. “They encouraged face masks, hand washing and social distancing. A lot of people have not listened, including me. So, here we are with numbers climbing rapidly in our county. If a mask mandate is what is needed to slow the spread, then let's try it. It is a much better alternative than closing local businesses again.”