While most people who contract coronavirus will only suffer from mild symptoms that can be treated at home, some will develop pneumonia and need hospital care. That's why it's so important that even those in lower-risk groups practice social distancing to protect those at higher risk and take the load off hospitals.
But while only a few people will need hospitalization, and even fewer will pass away, catching coronavirus can still be a scary prospect for many.
Michael Bane, a 42-year-old father who is "relatively healthy" recently tested positive for the virus. And in a Facebook post that has since gone viral, he decided to detail his experience, which involved being admitted to hospital with pneumonia.
"For all those who have asked the question 'Does anyone even know anybody that has gotten the coronavirus?,' if you know me, you do now," Bane begins his post.
He goes on to explain: "My positive test for COVID-19 has been relayed to me, and I wanted to share what my experience with this illness has been. The TL;DR version of this is: It’s brutal, and I have no doubt it can kill you. Anyone who is saying it’s just a bad cold is either had a far different personal experience than I have or is parroting stuff they found on the internet. For those offended by adult language or themes, you may way want to stop here."
Bane explains that he caught coronavirus during a brief interaction with someone who later tested positive.
"I’m a 42-year-old male who is relatively healthy. I exercise regularly, and generally avoid being ill. On March 3 I went to a routine doctor’s appointment. My wife works at this medical institution, and I thought it would be nice to surprise her with random flowers. On my way, I have an exceptionally brief encounter with someone believed to test positive a short time later. I don’t see my wife, but leave the flowers in her office after being escorted to it."
He then goes on to explain how his symptoms began:
"Fast forward to March 12. I’m at home eating spicy Chinese food (ignore any apparent irony) and my nose starts running, very mildly. I’m assuming it’s from the hot and sour soup. I don’t have to wipe it, blow it, or anything. It goes away within an hour and wasn’t something that would have registered if not for the current COVID-19 pandemic."
The father then goes on to detail his symptoms day-by-day.
"Friday, March 13 - Nose is slightly runny in the morning. Clears up shortly, nothing else. I have no need to wipe my nose or use a tissue."
"Saturday, March 14 - Slight sore throat. No sniffles at the moment, but I assume it’s from post-nasal drip or possibly due to sleeping without the humidifier, which is normally on at night. It disappears momentarily. I cough a little, but I figure this is also from post-nasal drip, possibly an allergy (although to what, I have no idea)."
"I see a post that says if you can hold a deep breath for 10 seconds without coughing, that’s a good sign. I can, and I venture out into the increasingly difficult-to-navigate world of grocery shopping. I tell myself I’m being responsible, as I stay as far away from everyone as I can, and I don’t even cough once."
It's worth noting that doctors have discredited the "self-test" that Bane describes, and they instead recommend phoning health care professionals for an official test if you have the symptoms of coronavirus.
"Sunday, March 15 - My cough is more persistent. The sore throat is worse, but it goes away quickly again. My nose has stopped running. My Google searches tell me it could be COVID-19, but it could be any number of other things. I am slightly worried and try to trace back to where I could have been exposed. My wife works at a hospital, and there have been confirmed cases, after false negatives."
"These patients were allowed to wander around the hallways of the hospital, several floors of which my wife worked on. I assume if I’ve gotten it, that’s how. She’s not showing any symptoms. I am mildly annoyed but figure I should probably consider avoiding work tomorrow. We’ve suspended all in-office operations, but senior management was scheduled to come in to try to evaluate the first day of working remotely as a firm."
"I can’t sleep. For whatever reason I just cannot get comfortable. I keep tossing and turning trying to alleviate this backpain on my left side, but nothing is working. At 1 am, it occurs to me this might not be normal backpain. I’m sleeping in the guest room at this point, because I don’t want to keep my wife up. I take my temperature. It’s 100.5, a slight fever."
"Figuring it’s better to be cautious, I email several people I work with and let them know I will be avoiding the office on Monday. Maybe it’s COVID-19, maybe it’s the flu. Whatever it is, I shouldn’t get other people sick, so I grudgingly elect to stay home. My symptoms are now fever, pain, and legit coughing."
"I call Rush’s 24-hour corona-hotline and am told to schedule a video appointment tomorrow. I download the MyChart app and attempt to do so but realize I can’t until the morning. I can’t sleep, so I pop three Advil to alleviate the fever and pain. It doesn’t work, and I toss and turn for hours. I remember seeing 5:10 am on the clock. I’m woken up at 5:30 by a text from my wife asking if I’m going to work. I tell her I’m not. She is staying home as well."
"Monday, March 16 - Scheduling a video appointment is difficult, as I keep getting the 'we’re at capacity, please try again later' message. I finally manage to secure one ($49, pre-paid), and find myself face to virtual face with a physician’s assistant about two hours later. She reviews my symptoms and circumstances (worsening cough, annoying fever, bad pain), and due to potential for exposure, says I should get tested. She puts a request in with the hospital and says it will be 1-5 days. I should head to the ER if I start having trouble breathing."
"I participate in a conference call with my firm and manage to get an appointment scheduled for the morning of the 17th to be tested for COVID-19. My mom and dad had recently been to our house, so I call them to make sure they are okay. That may not have been the best move, as they’re now worried, possibly needlessly."
"My fever continues to worsen. I’m trying to work here and there, but effectively got no sleep the night before. I’m freezing cold. I double up my blankets in an attempt to stay warm. The constant pain is wearing on me. I Google if letting fevers run helps fight germs. I find some evidence it does. I suck it up and add more blankets."
"Tuesday, March 17 – I need this test. The fever is back, 100.8, and the cough is worse. I feel better than yesterday, but I am dreading what’s to come. I shower and get my daughter ready for daycare. I don a mask and drop her off. I have 30 minutes to make my testing, which is plenty of time to show up the required five minutes early. My wife calls me, angry, and tells me she’s been furloughed pending the outcome of my tests. She also let me know that she traced my contact to the day I brought her flowers. They were very well received, and her co-workers are jealous, but a small part of me wishes I would have just gotten a drink instead."
"I call the testing site and let them know I’m five minutes out. I tell them a liquor truck has spilled booze everywhere, hence I’m a couple minutes slow. They do not seem impressed. They confirm what kind of car I’m driving, what I’m wearing, and tell me to pull in front of the security car into a reserved spot. I arrive and do as I’ve been instructed. The security guard outside shoots me a look, and I tell him I’m here to be tested. He nods, satisfied with my answer. I stay in my car, as I’ve been previously told to do."
"A hospital employee steps out in a mask and motions for me to get out of the car. My own mask is on, and I do. He immediately instructs me to put my hands in my pocket and not to remove them. He unlocks a door, and I follow him inside. I am again told not to take my hands out, and it’s added that I shouldn’t touch anything either. This seems redundant, unless he is telling me not to touch the insides of my pockets, in which case, I am not in compliance."
"The doctor at the end of the hall is dressed like she’s about to enter Chernobyl. She asks me how I’m doing. I try to think of a clever response, but whatever I mumbled is largely ignored as the doctor muses to herself she should stop asking that question. I cough violently. I’m led into a room, and the doctor points to a chair and tells me to stand in front of it, but not to sit down. She places a paper down on an exam chair and tells me I will pick it up before I leave."
"I feel bad for her, she’s undoubtedly been exposed to people with COVID-19 and has a high chance of getting it. She explains the nasal swab process and says that the probe is going to go in REAL DEEP. She repeats it for emphasis. I nod, and cough. I weigh whether knowing is worth this nasal intrusion. I lower my mask below my nose and look up. It’s mildly uncomfortable, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting."
"She puts my sample in a vial and opens the door while instructing me to take the paper and put my hands in my pockets. She yells 'Clear?' down the hallway and a few seconds pass before an affirmative “Clear!” is shouted back. I exit and try to look extremely cautious, avoiding everything and anything that a person could possibly come in contact with. The doors are opened for me, and I head back to my car, hearing the click of the lock to ensure it remains a secure facility. I was in there for a few minutes at the most. Now it’s 1-5 days of waiting. I take Tylenol before going to bed, having seen a statement made by a WHO spokesperson against Ibuprofen. I have a small headache."
"Wednesday, March 18 – It’s been two weeks since I was exposed. I wake up drenched in sweat again and take a 5 am shower. I go back to sleep for a bit and am rudely woken up by an alert on my phone. My test results are back already. That was fast. I go to the app to find out that I am negative for Influenza A and B. Okay, not what I was expecting at all. I didn’t realize they were also doing a flu test (makes sense) and had convinced myself I had caught Flu A from a co-worker. No such luck."
"I participate in a work conference call but feel weak and don’t contribute anything. My wife asks me if I can keep an eye on my daughter which she goes downstairs to cook some food. I watch her as best I can through open doors across a hallway. My wife comes back upstairs, and I close the door. I cry alone in my room for a while. I haven’t been able to interact with my daughter in four days. I am heartbroken."
"My temperature is going back up, but the pain isn’t as bad as the previous days. I don’t know. The cough seems worse. I’m trying to work but keep having to rest. I keep forgetting to eat. My wife brings me some beans and rice in a bowl. I put spoonfuls of it in my mouth and mostly just swallow. I don’t have the energy to chew."
"Around 6 pm I have a horrible coughing fit. Every one of my shallow breaths is met with a corresponding respiratory spasm as the air is forced back out of my lungs. It goes on and on and on. My wife asks me if I need to go the hospital. That seems like an overreaction, but my coughing doesn’t allow me to reply. I wave her off and continue hacking and wheezing. I’m fighting for air, but I believe it’s going to pass. I get enough of a break to take two types of cough medicine, Tylenol, and use an old rescue inhaler we found in the house. My wife brings me some hot tea, which helps. Within an hour I feel better than I have in days. I try to watch some Netflix but can’t concentrate. I go to bed early."
"Thursday, March 19 – It’s been a week since my first possible symptoms. I wake up freezing cold, and in horrible pain. My left lat seizes up, feeling like it’s trying to rip itself in half. As I attempt to figure out how to relax it, my foot cramps painfully as well. I am massively dehydrated. I’m drinking a lot of water, but the lack of food is keeping me from retaining much. There’s water next to my bed on the floor. I need to drink, but the continued pain and lack of energy is keeping me from acting. I begin processing the movements necessary in my mind to reach down and take a sip."
"Twenty minutes later I still haven’t moved. I feel broken, I don’t know how much fight is left in me. It’s like I’ve gone ten rounds with a heavyweight and he’s throwing all the punches. I can’t defend anymore, can’t do anything to lessen the blows. All I can do is get hit and hope that my natural vitality outlasts his ability to keep swinging. I eat shot after metaphorical shot. I consider the hospital again. Maybe they can put me on a morphine drip, buy me a few hours of comfort so I can fight some more. I think about all the people in Italy who may have died alone this way and begin to sob uncontrollably. Then the entirety of my arms, as well as the muscles around my eyes and lips soon begin to contract and tingle as I hyperventilate."
"When am I going to turn the corner? When is this all going to end? To everyone who said it was just a bad cold or like the flu, or that people were far more likely to be asymptomatic: fuck you. You have no idea what you’re talking about. This is not the cold. This is worse than the worst flu I’ve had. This is the Grim Reaper knocking on my door. I imagine him floating outside my window and flip him the bird. There’s more fear than bravado behind it. I cry some more, until a coughing episode forces me to get it under control."
"Two weeks ago, I did 13 pullups and ran a sub-seven mile. I ran 6 miles of a marathon with a partially torn tendon in my foot. I fractured my ankle and walked around on it for two weeks before bothering with the doctor. I am in shape. I am a tough guy. I tell myself these things as I gear up for my next, big challenge. I grit my teeth and roll to my side. I grab the water and take several large gulps. The icy liquid hitting my empty stomach is a shock, but I keep drinking. Okay. I did it. I have something to build on. Not dead yet."
"Friday, March 20 – I’ve kind of found my stride. When I feel a fever/pain coming on, I take Tylenol. When I start coughing, I take benzonatate and use an inhaler. I can deal with the fever to a certain extent, but the coughing has gotten to the point where if I don’t take something it’s difficult to get air. There’s a slight crackling sound happening when I’m breathing in and out. I am worried, but I’m keeping myself more comfortable than I’ve been for a while."
"I get into a few arguments with people on social media regarding the term 'Chinese Virus' and the inherent racism behind it. My opinion as an Asian-American is quickly and skillfully invalidated with well-crafted lines of reasoning such as 'Just another snowflake' and 'KISS MY ASS' (caps not mine). Clearly, the only thing I have proven is that I still haven’t learned what a waste of time arguing on social media is."
"Saturday, March 21 – Breathing is getting harder. I don’t exactly feel near-death, but more like life-adjacent. My arms and neck are tingling all the time due to a decrease in oxygen. I haven’t eaten much for three days because the food is making me nauseated. Showering and shaving have become more of an optional thing due to my weakness. My wife yells at me to go to the hospital. I don’t want to; I haven’t gotten my test results. She sends me a story about a 39-year-old who died waiting for hers. Okay, that does seem scary. I concede and pack a bag to head to the ER."
"Triage is weird. I’m told to go sit in a chair in a barren, cement room. The woman across the way does not look good at all. A man I can only assume isn’t mentally stable tries to check his dog in with him. He’s screaming a lot. There’s a couple of tents set up, and an area you can go stand in (6 feet away from the desk) to complete registering."
"My phone rings. The Illinois Department of Health calls to tell me I’m positive for COVID-19. I laugh and reply that I could have told them that. Thankfully I’m already at the hospital because I feel like I’m going to die. I try to think of the last time I was this sick. It was probably 40 years ago when I had meningitis. The doctors thought it was going to kill me. We’ll see what they think about this one. The hospital calls a few minutes later to give me the same report."
"I text my family, a few close friends, and my boss. Everyone is very kind. My boss lets me know they’re going to have to inform the office someone tested positive, but they’ll keep me anonymous. I tell him to use my name. It’s a scary message to get, and if people have questions maybe I can help. People may take social distancing protocols more seriously if there’s a face to associate with the illness. By the way work people, expect a message sometime soon."
Bane goes on to explain that he'd been so ill because he had pneumonia.
"I get into the ER and they take a chest X-ray. I have bilateral pneumonia. This explains the crackling sounds I’ve been hearing when I breath. My fever is 102. I’m admitted, stuck with an IV, and a host of medications are prescribed to me both intravenously and otherwise. They hook me up to the heart monitor and take my blood pressure every 30 minutes. It spikes when I hear I have pneumonia. The doctor is surprised I haven’t traveled anywhere. Unfortunately, we’re beyond that now. He thinks I'm about halfway through it."
"So here I am, in the hospital on the 13th floor with a lovely view of the city. Take that isolation! The coughing won’t stop, and I’m waiting for the drugs to arrive. My prognosis seems reasonably good, I don’t need oxygen yet, and the monitors will keep an eye on my levels."
He goes on to explain why he decided to share his story.
"The point of all this? It’s not real for some of us until it happens to us or someone we know. I appreciate the well-wishes I’ve gotten and am bound to get, and don’t want your sympathy. Please please PLEASE take this seriously. This could kill me. Practice social distancing. Our office shut down and I became homebound when the national emergency was declared. I wish it had happened weeks sooner. I wouldn’t have gotten this, and I wouldn’t have exposed countless other people to it while I was at work and other places asymptomatic. There is a high degree of guilt associated with that. I’m worried about my wife and child."
Bane goes on to conclude: "People have died. People will die. It might be people you love. Please stay inside. This is horrible, brutal, devastating and it feels l might be cashing my chips in. Protect the people you care about as best you can. I love you all."
The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.