MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As of this month, more than 95,000 people in Memphis and Shelby County have had COVID-19 and more than 1,600 people have died.
The CDC says a majority of people do get better, but some are still recovering weeks and months after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
If photos could capture the emotional and physical journey of Candice Grose, they’d show a healthy young business professional working in internal communications for a major food retailer. But they’d also show a picture of a young woman spending 18 days in the hospital during one of the scariest moments of her life.
“It was really scary experience; I’ve never been sick like that,” Candice said. “The first day I had the scratchy throat, but it was day two where my entire body and all of my joints were hurting, and I had flu like symptoms.”
We first met Candice last month on WREG’s Live At 9 sharing her COVID struggles. She also told her story on Facebook, when flu like symptoms caused her to first get tested for COVID-19.
“And it came back, and I tested positive for COVID, but not only tested positive for COVID, but I tested positive for the UK variant of COVID,” Candice said.
She was shocked because she’d been careful, not going out a lot and working remotely from home. She remembers the day when she was wheezing, barely able to speak when her mom insisted, over the phone, that she call 911.
“It definitely was a life-or-death situation. I think if I had not called 911 and had I not listened to my mom I don’t think I’d be here today to be honest,” Candice said.
Her oxygen levels dropped, and she had a high fever.
“Once the paramedics arrived, they put oxygen on me, and my oxygen had dropped close to 60%,” Candice said. “They also had to give me a breathing treatment because once I got to the stretcher, I had an asthma attack.”
In the hospital, she remembers a nurse telling her to fight because she was too young to be on a ventilator. She also had to learn to walk without losing her breath all because of the effect the UK variant of COVID-19 was having on her body.
“These new variants have new symptoms that COVID-19 does not have, or they bring on symptoms that you may not have ever had before. For example, with me I now have an inhaler for asthma,” Candice said.
Asthma and using an inhaler are some of the symptoms the CDC describes as being a “long hauler.”
“With this UK variant, I’m definitely a long hauler because I’m often fatigued, often have headaches,” Candice said.
Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Hospital, says problems related to long haulers can be very serious.
“People talk about long COVID syndrome and when they hear that they think of ringing of the ear, foggy headiness, maybe a little cough, fatigue that type of thing, but it’s much more complicated,” Threlkeld said. “We find that it affects kidneys and other sorts of organs, and people are dying of related spin-off problems that may be related to COVID. We just don’t fully understand it yet.”
But they do know it’s also affecting younger people.
“I don’t see anyone in the ICU who’s 80 years anymore unless they missed their vaccination,” Threlkeld said. “The disease is being driven into the younger population.”
If there’s an 80-something year old who could write a song about COVID giving you the blues, but surviving it, it’s Bobby Rush.
Last year, WREG first talked to the Grammy and Blues awards winner about recovering after his COVID-19 scare.
“I believe it was January 29th,” Rush said. “I got sick in Nashville, Tennessee and by the time I drove back to Jackson, Mississippi I was so sick and didn’t know if I was coming or going.”
For weeks he was worried about his health. But he says he survived by being in quarantine in his Mississippi home, following his doctor’s orders and praying a lot.
“God had his hands around me,” Rush said. “He has made me well and I’m pretty healthy now and feel good, but I do think about what could have been.”
Rush feels blessed he was never a long hauler. He’s making music again and will soon receive an honorary degree from Rhodes College, becoming Dr. Bobby Rush.
He says no matter what you call him, he’s got message about vaccinations.
“I want to tell the people don’t lie about it, go out and get your shot, keep your hands washed, keep your distance until we get this thing under control,” Rush said.
“COVID does not discriminate,” Candice said. It doesn’t care that you are a young person who’s climbing in your care. It doesn’t care if you have all these things going on in your life. It doesn’t discriminate you have to be careful.”