ER doctor says contracting the coronavirus was 'pretty scary'

Keeping up with Dr. Dara Kass is no easy feat. She is an emergency medicine doctor, wife, mother of three, Yahoo Life Medical Contributor and an associate professor at Columbia University. She is also a survivor of the coronavirus. 

Kass slowed down long enough to share with Yahoo Life moments of her day-to-day after surviving what could have been a fatal illness.

"The one word I can use to describe what it's like to find out that you have the coronavirus for most patients, I think including doctors, is it's actually pretty scary," she tells Yahoo Life as she reflects on her encounter with the disease. "For me, I was having muscle aches, fatigue, a little bit of a headache. I had lost taste which I thought was weird.”

 “...Not only did I get sick but a lot of my friends did too. Family members passed away, my next-door neighbor passed away,” Kass says.

Like many health care providers, Kass is on the frontlines fighting to keep other people alive while putting themselves at tremendous risk. Fortunately for the doctor, the symptoms she experienced did not warrant hospitalization, although they were painful. 

After testing positive for COVID-19 in early March, Kass was able to recover at home.

"I spent the next 5 to 6 days at home, kind of realizing how contagious I was, making sure I didn't give the virus to my husband, making sure I was breathing OK, taking Tylenol, I used an inhaler for shortness of breath. I checked my oxygen level with a finger pulse [oximeter] and I just monitored my symptoms making sure that I could stay home safely," she shares. 

Going into self-isolation for more than the recommended 14-day period, Kass had no contact with her kids, who were with relatives, and worked hard to maintain a safe social distance from her husband, Michael. While on the mend, the doctor says her thoughts were flooded with questions about what a full recovery would look and feel like.  

“Am I contagious and what does it mean to be around other people and can I give it to anybody? I was still living apart from my kids but I was definitely thinking about what it meant to reintegrate into society,” Kass goes on to explain. “I still wore a mask in public and about 3 weeks after my symptoms started I got back to work in the ER. And I really waited until I felt comfortable that I wasn't actively going to infect anybody else."

Now that she is fully recovered, Kass is doing all that she can to be a part of the solution.

"After I had coronavirus, I developed antibodies to the virus which has been really helpful and so I’ve been trying to participate in any of the studies around us in New York City that allow us to donate specimens to contribute to the plasma studies,” she says.

Back to juggling shifts at the hospital and seeing patients at home via telemedicine sessions, Kass is balancing being a wife and educator to her three children, ages 12, 10 and 7.

"Homeschooling is hard.” she shares. And her 12-year-old son Charles agrees. “I have way too much work!”

“How do you wake up and have a schedule with school and how do you wake up and do things on a regimented way, have lunch at the regular time, sleep at the regular time and not be frustrated or tempted by the television all of the time?” asks Kass.

Despite the chaos that comes with living in a busy household, Kass knows that she is lucky and focuses on the positives that come with isolating with her family.

“It’s the first time ever that we’ve had dinner together as a family basically every night,” she shares.

As some states rush to reopen, Kass wants us all to proceed with caution and to continue to practice social distancing. She also shares her concerns about what could happen if we try to get back to ‘normal’ too soon.

"I'm trying to get people to understand that if we're not careful about how we open up and how we engage and how we track and trace we could do this all over again,” she says.

“You need to think about what’s happening in your local community,” Kass explains. “We need to advocate for ourselves and for our families and for our neighbors and for our communities. I’m hoping that that’s what we have when this is over, a real sense of community and sustainability and I hope maybe a new and better normal, as the silver lining of this entire experience.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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