COVID-19 survivor shares story of exhaustion, illness

By Jackie Nelson

HESSTON—Deb Preheim is a COVID-19 survivor. Diagnosed with the virus on Sept. 27, Preheim was diagnosed using a rapid test, receiving a call with results before she returned home.

“I was shocked. It’s rare but not that rare anymore. My husband had it, too. He started his symptoms that Tuesday. He didn’t run a fever,” she said.

Preheim, however, spent two and a half weeks with serious symptoms; her sense of smell and taste have yet to return.

“I still have a very tight chest. I went for a second CT scan, and there are no blood clots and the pneumonia is going away. It’s taking me longer to heal,” she said.

Facing extreme exhaustion, she said, “I didn’t do anything but lay down. If I took a shower, that was my thing for the day.”

Shortly after her diagnosis, Preheim was faced with the possibility of hospitalization.

“I couldn’t take a deep breath at all. You want to cough; you have to take a deep breath to cough. Everything gets stifled and you panic. I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t cough. This might really be it. I thought of my kids and my husband,” she said.

During the worst of her illness, Preheim said she had the difficult “if something happens, we’ll be OK, Mom,” conversation with her son. “I was hoping to not have that conversation for another 40 years,” she said.

Preheim said simply being awake was a struggle at times.

“I slept 12, 13 hours every night and had to take a nap during the day,” she said.

Through her illness, Preheim said her husband kept the household functioning—doing laundry, making meals and meeting all the simply physical needs of daily living.

“My husband was just Superman through it. He was absolutely amazing,” she said.

For Preheim, her faith sustained her during the worst days.

“My belief in God. I told Him, whatever his will was that was fine with me. And that if he still had something left for me to do, I’d do it,” she said.

During her quarantine and illness, making time for family was important but difficult. With her children and grandchildren a tight-knit family, “We still did Facetime and talked to me. My one grandson is so sensitive. He cried when he saw me […] He couldn’t stand to see me that sick,” she said.

Even though she is no longer contagious or considered an active COVID-19 case, the after-effects still plague Preheim.

“I still can’t breathe quite right. I’m coughing. I’m still a little sluggish. I have COVID-brain. I can’t remember things. I can’t taste or smell. I’ve been told that can take three months or more to come back,” she said.

Even before her diagnosis, Preheim said, “I’ve always been one of those that had respect for it. I’m not one of those anti-mask or thinking it wasn’t real. I’ve always respected it,” she said.

Over a month into her recovery, Preheim is more vigilant than ever that customers and staff at her business, A Cut Above, wear masks and adhere to sanitization standards.

As a survivor, Preheim said, “Please wear masks. Don’t say we’re like sheep being herded. Be afraid of it. It’s not OK. Be aware and take precautions. It’s not going away after the election.”

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