TONASKET – Megan Barton got COVID-19, but still considers herself lucky in the way the disease affected her.
Barton, who lives near Tonasket and works as executive assistant to Mid-Valley Hospital CEO Alan Fisher, said she’s “doing great now” and has been cleared to return to work after her more than three-week bout with the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Barton said she doesn’t know how she contracted the disease since she was extra careful about wearing a mask, keeping six feet of distance from other people and washing her hands often. She said it’s possible she may have touched something on an infrequent trip to the grocery store or gas station and then inadvertently touched her face before applying hand sanitizer – she just doesn’t know.
“I got the disease that so many people continue to claim is a hoax or isn’t a big deal,” saying it’s just flu, she said. “We have no idea how I contracted it or where the exposure occurred.”
She remains an advocate of masks, physical distancing and hand sanitizing.
Barton said she’d been ill with an unrelated infection for a few days before symptoms of COVID became obvious on July 20.
She called in sick that day and went to Confluence Health, Omak, for testing. She praised the clinic’s staff for being compassionate and efficient.
After the early afternoon test, she was exhausted slept until the next day.
“I slept most of the first four days,” she said, noting that she had difficulty breathing to the point that sitting up was worse than lying down.
“I could not get enough air,” she said.
She spent her isolation in her home’s daylight basement, which has a bedroom, bathroom and sitting room with a small refrigerator. Her husband, Shane, brought down water, food and, eventually, books, but spent his isolation upstairs.
He has been working from home during her illness. Megan Barton said he has tested negative once and was tested again; they’re waiting on his latest test results before either of them can return to work in person.
He works at Okanogan County Community Action. Among his duties are finding housing for people who need to isolate themselves from others in their homes.
Megan Barton said since those initial few days flat on her back, she’s spent most of her illness reading, watching TV and sleeping, although she has started working from home.
“COVID for me has been, what I would assume, easy,” she said. “As an otherwise healthy person, the effects of COVID have not forced me to seek emergency care, nor have I required hospitalization. So, I consider myself really lucky.”
Barton praised Fisher and her team at work for supporting her and picking up much of her workload while she’s been ill. She also praised Lauri Jones, her friend who also has been her case manager.
Jones is community health director for Okanogan County Public Health and the point person for the county’s COVID-19 response.
Barton wrote about her illness in a lengthy Facebook post, which was shared with her permission, by the health district.
“Patients should have a voice in their own care,” she said. “They should be informed. Shockingly enough, I got COVID. That’s why I wrote it.”
She wasn’t hospitalized and wasn’t prescribed any special medications other than a renewal of a previous prescription for a medication to ease breathing.
Barton said she’s suffered from migraines since she was a child and COVID caused severe headaches. She said she learned, with her migraines, that run-of-the-mill headaches need to be knocked out quickly or they develop into migraines. Fortunately, in her case, acetaminophen works well.
Probably the scariest part of the disease was when she had a seizure.
Barton said she was home alone when it happened, but knew her husband would be home soon. She said she didn’t go to the emergency room, although now in retrospect she admits she probably should have.
“I have seen articles, legitimate ones, showing seizes can be linked” to COVID, she said.
Barton said she started to feel better around July 28 or 29 and tried to go outside for a few minutes. The temperature outside was near the 100-degree mark at that time and she said she found the situation stifling so she quickly retreated back inside.
“I didn’t go outside except twice for about five minutes each for two weeks,” she said.
She also found that some symptoms would show up, go away and then return. A dry cough was part of it.
Acetaminophen also worked well for the body aches associated with the disease.
“I felt like I’d been bucking hay bales all day when all I’d done was go to the bathroom,” she said.
Another symptom of the disease was the loss of taste and smell.
“I was completely unaware that I had loss my sense of smell at all,” she wrote in her Facebook post. “It wasn’t until Shane and the dog were visiting me in my makeshift domicile in the basement, and the dog let out one of his silent-but-deadlies, that we discovered I had loss my sense of smell.
“Shane had to clear the room, gasping for breath, and I had no idea why. Even the dog slinked out of the room seemingly embarrassed by his own brand. So losing my sense of smell wasn’t a total bummer, I suppose.”
Barton said her normal temperature is 97.5, so 99 is high for her. But that’s far below what is considered a high fever as part of diagnosing COVID-19.
“Only for one day did my temp ever get to 100.5 and that was well into my diagnosis,” she said.
“But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have night sweats, because I sure as hell did,” she said. “I’d wake up nearly every morning drenched in sweat and freezing, even with a temp of 98.6.”
Barton said she’s lost 22 pounds during the past three weeks and admitted her husband had to pretty much force feed her at one point.
That’s another effect of the disease – it affects other people, she said, noting that her husband had to stay home during her illness because he’d been exposed. Both of their employers have been impacted, as has her mother-in-law because she and her husband assist her.
She’s had to hire people to bring in 20 tons of hay and clean her horse stalls, and she’s had to cancel a trip to Alaska to help her dad.
Barton said friends and family have been very supportive, and neighbors have brought food, gifts, flowers and offers to do grocery shopping.
“Thankfully, I have had a great support system, which I consider myself very lucky to have,” she said. “I consider myself lucky to have it so easy throughout this whole infection.
“It’s important to note that many people aren’t this lucky. The impacts of the disease are far worse, many don’t have the means to self-quarantine or be cared for like I have had. Many don’t have the support system I have had.”
She said her advice to others who contract the disease is to take time to relax and not push themselves to go back to work or do other things too soon.
She also wants people to consider that “this isn’t about you, or politics, or whatever,” she wrote. “This is about protecting yourself, your family, your friends, and your communities. Sure, the death rate is low (thank God) but for people who actually get sick with symptoms it can be really tough. And the lasting effects are, well, still unknown as data is still being collected and studied.
“But do research. Call the specialists and ask questions. Read medical journals. And ask people who have had the virus what it was like. If you’ve had COVID, I encourage you to share your story and help spread awareness.”