The Reality of Recovering from COVID-19

Mandy Adolpo doesn’t know when, or how, she was infected.

It could have been while working at her job as a bartender in Spartanburg. Or maybe she caught it while eating dinner one night at a crowded restaurant in downtown Greenville.

No matter how it happened, it caught the 30-year-old by surprise. She’s healthy with no pre-existing medical conditions. Yet on a morning in late June, she started feeling unusually sick as COVID-19 took hold.

Over the course of the next few days, Apoldo lost her ability to taste food. She was so tired that she was unable to shower, or even get out of bed. Her head hurt. Her back. And then her throat.

Then she started to cough.

And at some point, before she knew what she had, she accidentally passed the virus on to her 66-year-old mother, who went on to spend nine days at Spartanburg Medical Center tethered to machines, struggling to breathe, thinking she might die.

“COVID is real,” a now-recovered Mandy Apoldo said this week via webcam, seated beside her now-recovered mother. “We are traumatized from this. It was terrible.”

She added, “People need to take this seriously. You do not want this.”

No names, only numbers

Apoldo and her mother, Debbie, a pastor at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, are part of a data set that has been growing throughout South Carolina in recent weeks.

The data comes with no names, only numbers.

As of July 22, 76,315 people have tested positive for coronavirus in South Carolina, with 3,295 of them in Spartanburg County, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

South Carolina is considered a hotspot for the virus.

But the Apoldos also belong to another category: People who have recovered from the virus.

DHEC is unable to track everyone who recovers from COVID-19. That’s partly because most COVID patients — roughly 88% — are not hospitalized and combat the virus from home, where they are told to self-isolate. DHEC can only track the recovery of patients for which they have symptom onset data, the date when the person first showed symptoms, according to DHEC’s website.

’An interesting illness’

That means there are thousands of people in Spartanburg County, and across the state, with stories like Mandy Apoldo.

But there are also thousands of former COVID-19 patients with stories completely different from the 30-year-old.

No two cases are alike, said Dr. Michael Finch, president of the Columbia-based S.C. Medical Association. “It really is an interesting illness,” he said in a telephone interview this week. “There’s such a wide range of effects it has on someone. Some can have it and have no idea they are sick. That’s one end of the spectrum.”

On the other end of the spectrum, people with COVID can have as many as 15 different symptoms at once, he said. “It’s a very unusual virus in that it presents 12 to 15 different symptoms. Some have six or seven, some have two or three,” Finch said. “ It’s a very strange virus in the way it affects people differently.”

Their stories

The virus hit Debbie Apoldo, 66, “like thunder,” she said.

“I’ve never been this sick in my life,” the pastor said from her home in Converse Heights, adding that, like her daughter, she too doesn’t have any pre-existing health issues.

At first, she felt fatigued and went to bed for two days. On the third day when she awoke, she felt pressure on her chest.

“I could not breathe,” she recalled. “We called an ambulance.”

When she arrived at the hospital, she knew she wouldn’t be leaving for a while. She was given steroid medication and oxygen. She also received an outpouring of support from her church community and her neighbors.

Nine days later, she was released, COVID-free.

But while the cough is gone, the worry and stress hasn’t subsided. She’s under the impression that she will always carry the virus, and it’s her understanding that she can catch it again.

After all they’ve been through — and with the risk of reinfection — Debbie Apoldo and her daughter are frustrated by the number of people they see not wearing a mask in public. They are aggravated at the fact they still see people on social media calling the virus a “hoax.”

“I’m 30 years old and healthy, and I got it,” Mandy said in a Zoom call this week. “Anyone can get this.”

Read the full story of additional Spartanburg residents’ recovery experiences with COVID-19 on GoUpstate.com here.

Originally published July 24th, by Dustin Wyatt.

Protect yourself, and others, from COVID-19

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

• Stay home as much as possible and avoid

close contact with others.

• Wear a cloth face covering that covers your

nose and mouth in public settings.

• Clean and disinfect frequently

touched surfaces.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water

for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcoholbased hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

*Source: S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control