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A Read ‘C’ for Corona: Overcoming the Physical and Mental Effects of COVID-19

A red 'C' for Corona | Illustration by Shannon McCabe | The Wright State Guardian

A red ‘C’ for Corona | Illustration by Shannon McCabe | The Wright State Guardian

“You feel like you have that big red letter on the front of your chest like ‘oh, I have a big C, a red C for corona. I’ve had it, and nobody still wants to be near you,” said Wright State University (WSU) chemistry lecturer Michelle Newsome.

Newsome is one member of the community who has battled the coronavirus since March. Students, professors and their families have all fought the virus together.

Spending time around her elderly parents, who contracted it in June, is how Newsome was exposed to it.

“They got coronavirus during the last week of June and I was the one that took them to the doctor,” Newsome said. “We were in the car unmasked, my dad’s in the back with a fever and all that, and so I was like ‘oh, I’m pretty sure I can’t get it.’”

Four days later, she tested positive.

Some within the WSU community have received multiple diagnoses, and these second instances have often been much harder to fight off than the first.

Senior Maxwell Gentile, an organizational leadership student, first experienced the coronavirus in late March. After he initially caught the virus, Gentile’s body felt unchanged.

“The only thing I had was a runny nose and a slight cough, but other than that, I didn’t show any symptoms,” Gentile said. He was running a slight fever at the time, but that only lasted for two days.

Between the beginning of March and when he was diagnosed, Gentile did not take the virus seriously. He felt that he would be okay since he was young and healthy.

At this time, the CDC recommended that individuals fighting the coronavirus should quarantine themselves for 14 days to avoid spreading it to others. Gentile waited this period out and was cleared by the Greene County Health Department to head back to work.

The second time Gentile caught the coronavirus, which occurred in October, was much worse.

In addition to a runny nose and a sore throat, he started experiencing body aches and a 100-degree fever. Gentile soon went to a drive-thru testing clinic, and received positive test results again that weekend. This caused him to be bedridden for a few days.

“It felt like if someone gave you a bear hug and was crushing you and wouldn’t let go,” Gentile said. “That’s what it felt like.”

Motion pictures major T. Shawn Klugh II began showing symptoms on Aug. 8, and those symptoms felt minimal, close to those of a sinus infection. He, his mother, father and grandmother all contracted the virus around this date.

“My grandmother was the fastest to recover from it,” said T. Shawn Klugh II. “She was better before the rest of us were. It affected her dementia extremely though, like she didn’t know where she was or what was happening. She was confused constantly.”

His mother’s illness was similar to a bad flu, while his father, Timothy S. Klugh, had a much worse experience with the disease. He experienced flu symptoms that turned into nausea and, soon after this, a bout of pneumonia that made it difficult to breathe.

“One night, I woke up only able to breathe shallow breaths, and I was feeling that not enough oxygen was reaching my bloodstream,” said Timothy Klugh. “Although I was breathing, my body felt like it was suffocating.”

Timothy Klugh’s wife called an ambulance that night, and he was admitted to the ICU.

“The doctor told me later that I would not have survived the night if I had not been brought into the hospital,” Timothy Klugh said.

Fighting the disease wreaked havoc on the physical health of each person.

Gentile kept himself occupied by watching television and playing on his phone when he felt strong enough. He was only able to stay awake for two hours at a time.

Timothy Klugh was bedridden in his hospital bed for three weeks as doctors and nurses kept track of his oxygen levels, and had to sleep on a cushioned board face-down to open his lungs more.

“There were moments when my oxygen would drop to the level that I could not stop coughing, which, in turn, made the situation worse,” said Timothy Klugh. “It was always a struggle to get my breathing to stabilize again.”

Each of them began losing their sense of smell and taste.

“The second day after my diagnosis, I lost my smell completely, and that in itself was wild, like you’re sitting there and then all of a sudden, something’s different,” Newsome said. “I was like, wait a minute, because you hear about it, people losing their smell, and they’re like ‘what? No, that can’t be.’”

Newsome had noticed that she was unable to smell what was baking in her oven.

“Then, I started opening things like vinegar, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and sticking my nose straight into it,” said Newsome. “Nothing. Not even maybe.”

The coronavirus took a toll on each person’s mental health, as they were not able to interact with their loved ones. Timothy Klugh spent most of his days in the hospital without the company of his wife and son.

“I was on my own in that room because no one except my doctor or the assigned nurse could go in,” Timothy Klugh said. “Not even my wife or son was able to visit me, which was just torture for my emotions.”

“There was one point where I just backed up to my husband and said ‘please touch me,’ because you just started to feel isolated and nobody would touch you,” Newsome said.

Another concern that is hitting students, professors, and their families hard is a fear of the unknown, according to staff psychologist for the university’s Counseling and Wellness Center Dr. Sarah Peters.

“We know that that’s always a source of anxiety, of just not knowing a clear path of what happens next, and we’re all in that boat,” said Dr. Peters. “None of us really know what’s going to come with this.”

After returning home from the hospital and retraining his body, Timothy Klugh felt healthy enough to return to his job as a composer.

“On the day I could work a full day online, I felt accomplished,” Timothy Klugh said. “On the day I could return to the office and work, I felt the long journey was finally over.”

Even though the journey was over for the Klughs, Newsome and Gentile, they have been dealing with ill effects long after beating the coronavirus. Newsome has not fully recovered her sense of smell, while Gentile has felt worn out and extremely out of breath while walking to his apartment.

“We can’t taste the same way anymore,” said T Shawn Klugh II. “Everything tastes strange, weird, and wrong. Specifically, sugary things taste like chemicals. When I drink soda, it tastes like I’m drinking soda with an aftertaste of Windex.”

Though many members of the WSU community have recovered from the coronavirus, it continues to spread throughout the world and infect millions of individuals. It is important to remember during this difficult time that anyone struggling with the coronavirus, whether they are in Italy, Egypt or America, is in this together. No one fighting the disease has the same battle as another, but they are all fighting the same war.

Maxwell Patton

Wright Life Reporter