By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
“I have never experienced anything like this before. There were days when it was a cough that just never stopped. I couldn’t even come up for air, or get a breath in. It was just cough after cough after cough, nonstop. It was so bad that the first week of it, I looked in the mirror to brush my teeth and all the blood vessels in my eye had ruptured from the severity of the coughing spells.”
Linda Rockwood, a Walpole resident and pediatric nurse at Boston Medical Center, has been in quarantine for over a month dealing with the effects of COVID-19. While she cannot say where she got the virus, she did come in contact with infected patients at work, as the hospital sent their kids to Boston Children’s Hospital and converted the floor to an all-COVID one. After working on April 1 and 2, on April 3, Rockwood got a fever and was tested at the hospital. Her test came back positive, and she has been out of work ever since.
Rockwood lives with a person with a lung problem, so she noted her big fear while working at the hospital was having no symptoms and unknowingly passing the virus on to him. Luckily, to this point, he has not caught the virus.
Rockwood noted that her first symptom was a dry cough, but that she also experienced the loss of smell and taste early on during her illness. Over a month later, her sense of taste still has not returned.
“That came on early for me. On April 7th. The first thing I noticed was taste. I was drinking a cup of coffee with flavored creamer in it and I said ‘this coffee doesn’t taste right.’ Then I realized it’s not that it tastes bad, it has no taste. I could have been drinking a cup of hot water. I went over to the coffee pot and couldn’t smell the coffee, and then I went to some other things and realized I couldn’t smell. The smell has come back, but I still don’t have taste.”
Far less pleasant symptoms included near constant fevers, headaches and the aforementioned coughing fits.
“I was lucky that I didn’t end up in the hospital. I’ve been fighting this at home since April 3, which is what they’re calling the start of my symptoms, even though I had the dry cough before that. I had fevers every day for over three weeks. Every day I had a cough, fever, headaches, was short of breath. My voice was so hoarse it was hardly even a whisper. The highest my fever went was 101.2, but it was every day: fever, pounding headache.”
Rockwood, who plans on donating her blood for research whenever they will let her, is now in recovery, having been put on prednisone and albuterol to deal with inflammation and atelectasis in her lungs. While she acknowledges how much faster she is out of breath now, and how difficult it will be to breath in an N-95 mask for a twelve-hour shift, Rockwood is eager to get back to work.
Keep in mind, there are still many questions about COVID-19 antibody development, whether a person can get reinfected by the same strain, and whether there are many strains of the coronavirus out there in the same way there are many strains of influenza.
Nonetheless, having suffered and continuing to suffer from the effects of this virus, Rockwood still wants to put herself back in harm’s way.
“I almost feel guilty that I’m here in this spare bedroom and they are going to work,” she explained, noting how many of the nurses she works with have young families they are worried about infecting. This was a common refrain from Rockwood, who spoke of starting her nursing career amid the AIDS epidemic and again saying: “I want to get back on the horse. I want to go back,” and “I’m looking forward to getting back to what I know best, which is taking care of patients.”
While it seems insane to most, does that attitude sound familiar? A person desperately wanting to put his or herself in harm’s way again to help their coworkers and take care of people in need, while still fighting the effects of a job-acquired injury?
It sounds like a wounded soldier looking to return to the battlefield. Given that attitude, it wasn’t surprising to learn Linda is the daughter of a World War II veteran who fought on Omaha Beach on D-Day.
Right now, Linda Rockwood is home recovering from the coronavirus. But soon, she will be returning to the new frontlines in America’s continuing battle with COVID-19 to do what she does best: take care of people.