WBEZ is chronicling Illinois’ road to recovery, bringing you stories of people as they move on from COVID-19 physically, emotionally and economically.
Patricia Rodriguez had been working for a local political campaign, surrounded by volunteers and supporters ahead of the March Illinois primary, when she started to feel sick. She had a cough, high fever, headaches and body aches so bad she couldn’t get out of bed for three days. She was afraid.
“I was listening to the news and people were going to the hospital and being intubated and they were dying and I was scared,” she said. “I don’t want to go to the hospital, and that’s the way I’m going to end up.”
Rodriguez, 56, wouldn’t test positive for COVID-19 for a few weeks. She couldn’t get approved to get tested. She lives alone in a condo in McKinley Park, where she’s spent the last eight weeks battling the disease by herself. Two of her daughters are grown up with families of their own. During the first few weeks, they’d drop off groceries and home-cooked meals, and they’d talk briefly through the front door.
She had to rely on herself to do everything from changing her sheets after a night of feverish sweats to pushing herself to take a shower or just move around the house.
“I’d say, ‘OK, I’m going to walk around the block,’ and I’d walk around the counter,” Rodriguez said, laughing. “I think mentally and physically, but more mentally, you have to fight it.”
Her youngest daughter is a nurse and came by in protective gear to check her temperature and blood pressure. During the worst of the virus, Rodriguez hallucinated visits with her daughter that didn’t happen.
“I just kept just thinking about my daughters. It’s not my time for me to leave them. They’re older but they still need mom,” she said.
As the weeks continued, Rodriguez’s symptoms would change. She developed a burning sensation in her nose that wouldn’t go away. Her doctor put her on multiple antibiotics, two inhalers and a nebulizer, which is a type of breathing therapy usually recommended for asthmatics.
“Some days I feel I’ve turned the corner, and other days I feel like it just wipes me out,” she said.
Over time, loneliness became harder to bear. She felt as if she were on an emotional roller coaster, thanking God for her safety, and praying for her daughters’ safety. Other times, she hit a low.
“I’m here by myself and I’m lonely and I can’t wait to see my kids and my grandkids,” she said. “Then, you listen to the news and you’re like, ‘When is this going to be all over with? Why is this happening?’”
Rodriguez said it’s not just living alone, but not having friends or family to talk with who understand what it’s like to live with the virus.
She joined a group of COVID-19 survivors on Facebook, where they talk about that loneliness, about the fear that comes with having the virus. Rodriguez said some group members said they live with family but still felt lonely because no one else could relate to their experience.
Rodriguez took a test recently that shows she’s not carrying COVID-19 anymore, but she still has a persistent cough. She decided to spend Mother’s Day alone, video chatting with her children and grandchildren until the symptoms subside.
Kate McGee is a reporter at WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @McGeeReports.