Local COVID-19 survivor shares her story
By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer, Rocky Mount Telegram
A 38-year-old Nash County mother was released from Nash UNC Health Care last week after spending 43 days in the hospital being treated for COVID-19.
Adrienne Burns, a local Walmart employee, agreed to share her story with the media so that others would know what it felt like to suffer from a severe case of COVID-19 and survive the experience.
Burns said she became sick about two months ago and initially thought she had bronchitis.
“I was able to access the Doctor on Demand at Walmart and the doctor prescribed some inhalers and steroids, but they did not help,” Burns said.
When Burns connected with the doctor online again, she was asked about her temperature. Burns said she did not have a thermometer but did not think she had a fever. The doctor told Burns that she could not treat her without more information and sent her to the Emergency Department at Nash UNC Health Care.
“I went into that emergency room and did not leave the hospital for 43 days,” Burns said. “I remember them telling me that I had a fever of 102 degrees and had double pneumonia. I really don’t remember much after that.”
Burns was diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed on a ventilator in the CVICU unit of the hospital where critically ill COVID-19 patients are cared for. For several days Burns said she was pretty much unaware of her surroundings.
“I was told that I tried to fight the nurses and they had to restrain me, but I don’t remember any of that. The doctors told me later that they were afraid they were going to lose me,” Burns said.
When she did become aware, she had to face the loneliness of her situation. The mental toll was hard, she said.
“No one was allowed to visit me, and I could not see my 11-year old son,” Burns said. “I was able to talk to some of my family on the phone and by video, but that sometimes upset me because my son wanted me to come home so bad. This is the longest time I have ever been away from him.”
What got her through the experience was her faith in God and the support of friends and family, she said.
“When I could talk to them on the phone, I would call them up and they would encourage me and remind me that God was with me,” she said.
She also had support from hospital staff.
“I love most of the staff,” she said. “There were some that really seemed to care for me, and others, not so much. But all in all, it was a good learning experience.”
Once Burns was able to get off the ventilator, she was moved to another ward on the second floor where medically stable COVID-19 patients are tended. Because of the length of time Burns was on a ventilator, she required extensive physical therapy to rebuild her strength and ability to walk.
“I had to learn how to walk and feed myself again,” Burns said. “It felt like I was reborn because I was so weak. When I first was able to take a few steps, I bawled my eyes out because I was not sure that was something I would ever get back.”
Once Burns was able to test negative on two consecutive COVID-19 tests, she was transferred to Nash UNC’s Bryant T. Aldridge Rehabilitation Center for more intensive physical therapy. Whlle there, she finally was able to see some of her former nurses without all the protective gear they had to wear in the COVID ward.
Burns was only at the rehabilitation center for eight days but said she was impressed with the way the staff members went out of their way to support her.
“I love the rehab staff and wish I could go back and see them,” Burns said. “When I left, it was a bittersweet moment. I was glad to have survived and be able to go home, but I had bonded with some of the staff there and developed some really good friendships. They were like family.”
Burns has advice for people who do not treat COVID-19 seriously.
“I was a healthy young person and really oblivious to what all this means. I was just going about my life and going to work and then — boom — I had this,” she said. “I am still weak and have nerve pain. It will probably be a while before I can go back to work.”
She said she worries about how many places are open now.
“People need to wear face masks, sanitize their hands and follow the CDC recommendations,” Burns said. “They need to stay home whenever possible. This is nothing to play around with.”