COVID hit ‘like a ton of bricks,’ leaving mother feeling guilty about who she might have exposed

By Stan Finger / For the Wichita Journalism Collaborative

Jessica McCoy was always going to remember this July 5. It was the day of her daughter’s wedding.

But now she’ll never forget it for another reason: it’s the day she came down with COVID-19.

“I was perfectly fine,” said McCoy, who’s 44. “I felt great. No cough, no nothing. After the wedding, after the cake and all that, I just went into this coughing fit. I could not stop. It came out of nowhere.”

She decided to cut her time at the celebration short and went home. About two hours later “it was like a ton of bricks fell on me. My fever shot up, I felt freezing cold. I just felt horrible.”

Aware of the symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19, she set about trying to get tested. It took nearly a week, and she waited four days for the results: positive.

She was told that if she was not having difficulty breathing, she should stay home and try to take care of herself. So that’s what she did.  Her first week with it was miserable, she said, with a fever that hovered between 101 and 103 for five days.

She treated it the same as she would with the flu, she said — cough medicine, a decongestant such as Claritin, and soup.

“I just tried to treat my symptoms and sleep a lot,” McCoy said.

Her adult daughter would go to the grocery store for her, “throw soup and stuff in the door and leave,” she said with a laugh.

“I slept a lot,” she said.

One time after she woke up, the area around her mouth was “kind of bluish,” and she worried about her oxygenation levels. Based on readings she was able to obtain via an app on her phone, however, they never dropped to dangerous levels. Once her fever finally went away after several days, she slowly began to recover.

“I didn’t get better and better and better every day,” she said. “One day I would feel OK. I’d get up and take a shower and make a little something to eat, and the next day I’d feel horrible. The fatigue was just unbelievable.”

It took her three weeks to return to work on the flight desk at Jabara Airport. She had worn a mask and taken all the recommended precautions and still doesn’t know how she contracted the illness. But she has an idea about how it may have happened.

“At work, we deal with people from all over the place – Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Texas – I’m constantly helping those people, dealing with pilots,” she said.

Other than work, the grocery store and going inside a couple of restaurants to pick up orders, she’d pretty much stayed home.

Before she became ill, she said, people would ask her how she felt about COVID-19 and she would tell them she wasn’t that concerned about it. 

“I just really didn’t think that I would get it,” she said. “It was a really big surprise. I was shocked.”

She returned to work two weeks ago, though she continues to battle a persistent cough. Her senses of taste and smell have returned, and since then “I’ve been eating everything.”

She signed up to donate plasma because of the antibodies she developed, but the Red Cross told her she doesn’t weigh enough to be able to donate. She lost several pounds while sick and is trying to gain enough weight back to donate.

“It’s supposed to help people,” she said. “If I can do that, hopefully it’ll help somebody that’s really, really sick.”

McCoy admits she worries about the long-term damage the virus may have done to her body. She also frets over the possibility that she may have exposed others to COVID — though she knows of no confirmed cases connected to her.

“I felt horrible” about being at the wedding the same day her symptoms surfaced, she said. “l was apologizing to everyone.”