Renee English, 40, said when she woke up with a pounding headache, she figured it was a side effect from her treatment.
“I really thought, ‘Oh my gosh,’ something terrible is happening with my MS because I just had my medication,” English said.
English also had a fever, sore throat and an ear ache. She said the pain was like nothing she had ever experienced before.
“It was like strep on steroids, and I felt at the same time, the ear pain, it just was piercing, it was horrible,” said English.
Her doctor sent her to Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 drive through test site. Soon after, she received a call that shook her to her core.
“She said, ‘Well, you’re not feeling well because you did test positive for COVID-19,’ ” said English. “Immediately, I couldn’t speak. I was in tears. My first thought was, ’Oh my God, I’m going to be on a ventilator. I’m not going to survive this.’ “
To make matters worse, English’s MS, which she’s been battling for 20 years, flared up. She had numbness in her face and hands, which doctors say is common when someone with MS has a fever.
“I went over her MS symptoms with her and explained that she was not experiencing an MS relapse, but the coinciding infection with COVID-19 was increasing her MS symptoms,” said Shauna Gales, PA-C, of Cleveland Clinic.
English was able to recover at home by taking fever reducing meds, drinking plenty of fluids and getting lots of rest.
“It was a solid two weeks before I felt like myself again,” English said. “And then I would say it was another whole week after that before I stopped being so incredibly tired.”
English lost her sense of taste and smell, and has lingering numbness in her face and hands, but she wants others to know that they can survive COVID-19, too.
“I would say to most people: ‘If you’re healthy and active and you get it you’re going to be OK,’ ” she said. “I’m living proof you know? I have MS and I was terrified. I think those of us who survive need to do everyone a service by saying, you know, you can survive.”
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, having MS does not increase someone’s risk of getting COVID-19.