2 Cherokees share experience with COVID-19
TAHLEQUAH – As of Sept. 9, the Cherokee Nation’s health system has confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases and continues to fight its spread. The Cherokee Phoenix spoke with two CN citizens who contracted the virus earlier this year and overcame it.
Julie Blackfox, of Tulsa, was at her job as a certified nursing assistant on April 17 when she noticed a tickle in her throat followed by a cough.
“I was getting off work at 12. And at 11:50, I had this itch in my throat, like just a little cough,” Blackfox said. “Then a few a minutes later it was another cough. I wasn’t trying to cough, and I’m thinking if I’m coughing I probably need to be leaving. Once I got outside I coughed a few more times. And it was just a dry cough, nothing major. I didn’t feel sick or anything.”
She said she was heading to Tahlequah the same day with her wife and brother. After napping on the way she woke up dizzy and nauseated. “When I woke up from the nap in the car, I sat up and I was dizzy. But I realized I was nauseous. I just knew something was wrong so we just decided to go to the ER. I wasn’t coughing. I didn’t have a fever or nothing like that. When I went there, they gave me the test. That was on a Friday.”
The next day, she said she had more symptoms. “All through Saturday, no taste, no smell, the body aches. I felt like I had just got run over. I was just so tired. I didn’t have any energy.”
On April 20 she learned she was COVID-19 positive. She quarantined with her wife, who also contracted the virus, at their Tulsa apartment, only going outside to walk the dog.
“By Wednesday, I was down for like probably five days, I think, where I did not want to get out of bed,” she said. “We live on the second floor so it was a job to get down the stairs let alone coming up the stairs, and I would stop like halfway, try to catch my breath and try to breath. I couldn’t ever take a deep breath in because it would make me cough. I would have a super long coughing fit.”
She said she could barely speak because it made her cough. About 10 days into having the virus, the W.W. Hastings Hospital monitoring team advised her to get examined due to her inability to speak without coughing.
Blackfox believes her being diabetic is the reason she was “down” for so long.
“I think that’s why it had affected me so much,” she said. “During all of this, I could compare my symptoms to my wife’s where she was down but she still had energy. Like I had no energy to get out of bed. She never had a fever with hers, and my fever was always low grade.”
She said it took 48 days from the time she tested positive to have two tests comes back negative, per Centers for Disease Control guidelines, before she was out of quarantine.
For CN Registrar Frankie Hargis, she said she contracted the virus in March and was on a ventilator for 33 days.
“I was first aware of my symptoms around March 13. I had developed a cough,” Hargis said. “On March 15, I went to Hastings Urgent Care. I was told I had bronchitis, given some medication and sent home.”
She said she missed a day of work and was back in the office on March 17. “I was experiencing some shortness of breathe so my co-workers convinced me to go back to the hospital. In the ER, they ran some tests and decided to send me to Tulsa because of my heart condition. A COVID test was done at Hastings before I left.”
She said it took nine to 10 days for her test to come back positive.
“My condition had worsened prior to that and I was placed on a ventilator on March 21,” Hargis said. “I am not aware of what happened during the 33 days that I was on the ventilator. My children have given me some detail. I know they received more than one call that I was not doing well and may not make it through the night.”
While on the ventilator, she received a convalescent plasma donation, which is plasma donated by a COVID-19 survivor that contains virus antibodies.
“At some point, I’m not sure when, but my son received a call explaining that the hospital had been selected as a plasma transfer test site and asked for permission to give me the plasma,” she said. “My son consented and they tell me after receiving the plasma I began to show improvements.”
Upon being discharged on April 27, Hargis said she was “extremely weak.”
“I had to have assistance doing everything. It was two to three weeks before I could walk without assistance of some kind,” she said.
She said she encourages people to wear a mask to “suppress the spread” of the virus.
“They don’t fully stop the spread of the virus but they definitely suppress the spread,” Hargis said. “I wish people would realize that those who are wearing masks or taking precautions are not being dramatic but have experienced the virus in some form and realize how devastating it can be.”
Blackfox said though she is pro-choice on mask wearing, she believes social distancing is important. “For people that don’t wear a mask, I think that should be a choice, but if you think you have been exposed then it makes sense to wear a mask. My biggest concern is the little kids and our elders. I don’t like to wear a mask either, but any time I go out I really am mindful of who is around me.”Editor’s Note: Hargis is the mother of Cherokee Phoenix Executive Editor Tyler Thomas.