• Dry cough, sore throat, and congestion occurred after a visit to Colorado, where a COVID-19 outbreak had been reported.
  • Both her and her husband developed severe body aches and overwhelming fatigue, but neither had a fever.
  • The emergency room doctor self-quarantined and used her own funds to purchase two coronavirus test kits from a local lab, which shipped them overnight.

Video Transcript

JOHN WHYTE, MD, MPH: Hello, I'm Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Officer at WebMD. And welcome to Coronavirus in Context. Today, we're going to talk to someone who has contracted the coronavirus, hear their story, and find out how they're doing. My guest is Dr. Sharon Amaya. Dr. Amaya, thanks for joining us today.

SHARON AMAYA, MD: You're so welcome.

JOHN WHYTE: Now, first of all, how are you doing right now?

SHARON AMAYA: I'm actually doing much, much better. I'm about day 13 [COUGHS] currently, so I feel like I really turned the corner about three days ago.

JOHN WHYTE: Tell us your story. It's a fascinating one.

SHARON AMAYA: So approximately two weeks ago, I had just traveled to Vail for a few days of fun snowboarding --

JOHN WHYTE: Right.

SHARON AMAYA: -- and felt great while there. But as we returned back to Atlanta, I heard about an outbreak in Vail, which, of course, that was during the time that this was blowing up in the United States, so not surprising. But it kind of nibbled in the back of my mind, uh oh, I was just in a hot spot, but woke up the day after we got home with a little bit of a sore throat --

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

SHARON AMAYA: -- and that feeling how you know you're coming down with something, kind of like, eh, something's just not quite right. But I didn't feel ill at all. Progressed through that day just with the sore throat.

The next day, I did develop more of a dry cough along with the throat. And I had actually a lot of congestion, some nasal congestion.

JOHN WHYTE: Did you have a fever?

SHARON AMAYA: You know what? At that time, I did not have a fever. Um, was checking periodically, nothing over 99.

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

SHARON AMAYA: Technically no fever. And then, as the next couple of days progressed, I definitely started getting more of the severe body aches that you hear about, a lot of just neck, back, and headache pain, and then that just general malaise and not feeling well along with, again, more of a continued dry cough.

JOHN WHYTE: And what were you thinking at that time? Were you thinking coronavirus or were you thinking flu or just, you know, some other --

SHARON AMAYA: I got my flu shot, just like everybody should. I got my flu shot. So I did not feel like I had the flu. And again, I really -- I didn't have these high fevers that go along with both of those illnesses, with this COVID as well as the flu.

JOHN WHYTE: And what was happening with your husband? Because you talk about your husband and symptoms.

SHARON AMAYA: And he actually -- exactly the same symptoms. We pretty much mirrored each other, and we traveled together. And we actually have the same job, so we both work in the emergency room.

So we -- we're good sounding boards for each other. It was kind of like, hey, could this be the coronavirus? And by two, three days in, I think enough symptoms, um, that we felt like, I think we need to know only because of work.

JOHN WHYTE: Were you -- you were in quarantine at the time?

SHARON AMAYA: We self-quarantined.

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

SHARON AMAYA: At this point, we luckily didn't have any upcoming workshifts. We didn't need to go anywhere. There wasn't an urgent need for toilet paper at that time.

So we pretty much self quarantined. And knowing at the time -- and this was only two weeks ago, but, as you know, things have just rapidly progressed. Had I gone to the Department of Public Health or work and said, hey, I want to get tested, there just weren't the tests to be done.

JOHN WHYTE: But you're an emergency medicine physician?

SHARON AMAYA: But I had not been -- I had not had fevers, number one. And at that time, they were pretty much really focused on the fever aspect. And I had not been around a known coronavirus patient at that time.

So really, even, with my job, I didn't qualify.

JOHN WHYTE: I -- I know. It's just -- when we think about it, it's a little shocking that here you are, a health provider, and you can't get a test.

SHARON AMAYA: Correct.

JOHN WHYTE: At that time.

SHARON AMAYA: Correct, and things have hopefully progressed to where we are more able to get these testings. But at that time, simply because we wanted to know, I just googled Atlanta area labs doing the coronavirus. And I found one in Sandy Springs and actually ordered two kits at that time. And they sent it same day, and I got it that very next morning by FedEx.

JOHN WHYTE: Did you have to pay for it?

SHARON AMAYA: I did.

JOHN WHYTE: Because you ordered it yourself to do at home.

SHARON AMAYA: I did. I did.

JOHN WHYTE: Is that right?

SHARON AMAYA: It was.

JOHN WHYTE: Cool.

SHARON AMAYA: It was reasonably priced, and I felt like it was worth knowing, again, simply for work purposes, not necessarily because I felt that ill.

JOHN WHYTE: But your institution wouldn't do it. Wouldn't do a test?

SHARON AMAYA: I'm sorry?

JOHN WHYTE: Your institution would not do the test at that time, is that right?

SHARON AMAYA: At that point, they really didn't have the tests available.

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

SHARON AMAYA: We were, at that time, reserving them for patients who were so sick that they were being hospitalized.

JOHN WHYTE: It impacts their treatment ultimately.

SHARON AMAYA: Exactly.

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

SHARON AMAYA: Exactly, so we got the kit, and we self swabbed.

JOHN WHYTE: Did you self swab each other? Or did you --

SHARON AMAYA: No. [LAUGHS]

JOHN WHYTE: Or you did your own? SHARON AMAYA: I did my own. And my husband did his own.

JOHN WHYTE: All right.

SHARON AMAYA: And we followed the instructions included in the kit and sent that back same day.

JOHN WHYTE: In the mail? Or did you leave it outside to be collected?

SHARON AMAYA: We had to take it to a FedEx location. So -- so we dropped it, and they had sent it overnight. And that was on a Wednesday that they received it, and I had my result on Thursday afternoon.

So it was a very quick turnaround time from that lab.

JOHN WHYTE: And the results were --

SHARON AMAYA: -- the fastest I've seen.

JOHN WHYTE: The results were positive for you, correct?

SHARON AMAYA: They were positive for me and negative for my husband, which I assume is a false negative because we have had the exact same symptoms.

JOHN WHYTE: You had said he didn't follow the instructions well.

SHARON AMAYA: Exactly. My technique was better. [LAUGHS] So and that is, again, an interesting aspect of this, is can you rely on the tests entirely? And probably not. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it probably is COVID-19.

JOHN WHYTE: There are some issues with predictability of tests and also getting the right sample. We talked a little bit about that. Are we getting -- are we doing the swab correctly? You're obviously more educated and experienced in it. But it could be a challenge for others if they have --

SHARON AMAYA: Correct.

JOHN WHYTE: -- to self swab, not exactly knowing what that means and what's considered a good swap. That's why I asked if you had done his, if he had done yours.

SHARON AMAYA: No, thankfully, no. We were responsible for our own, so.

JOHN WHYTE: And then what were you taking for medication. Were you taking anything for fever or pain?

SHARON AMAYA: So really, my go to is usually ibuprofen. But with the some of the studies coming out of France that, hey, might not be the greatest idea to take during this time, stuck with Tylenol.

JOHN WHYTE: We're not sure about the ibuprofen right now and NSAIDs but, you know, prudence.

SHARON AMAYA: So really, just Tylenol, sometimes Tylenol Cough and Cold, if I felt more congested or the cough was bothering me more than just the body aches. And there have been --

JOHN WHYTE: Did you get short of breath? Did you ever lose your breath?

SHARON AMAYA: Um, certainly, I'm pretty active. I typically work out on a regular basis. And the only times I've actually felt short of breath is with minimal activity during this. Walking up a flight of stairs, heart rate would shoot up, and I would feel winded for a good minute. And then I would recover, so in terms of shortness of breath, just with exertion but not at rest at all.

JOHN WHYTE: What was the worst symptom? Was it the cough? Was it the -- the fatigue?

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

SHARON AMAYA: It was the fatigue and just the body aches, but more the fatigue, just having no energy. And this was after sleeping 10, 11 hours a night, which I allowed myself to do. So it was just that kind of overwhelming fatigue more than anything else. The cough, I've had much worse in the past just from the common cold.

JOHN WHYTE: How many many days did this go on?

SHARON AMAYA: So I'm currently day 13. I'm feeling so much better. Energy is much improved, no body aches. The cough is improving a lot.

I'm not taking any medications. It's still there to a degree, to the point where I'm not going to run out to the grocery store because I feel like the cough is one of the most contagious type symptoms. And so I'm just giving it a little more time. But I feel markedly better.

JOHN WHYTE: How many tough days did you have, out of these 13 days, would you say?

SHARON AMAYA: I would say three to four, three to four only.

JOHN WHYTE: Do you think being a physician mattered in terms of how you thought about the coronavirus or managing your own symptoms?

SHARON AMAYA: I think so. And not that I wanted my husband to be sick at all, but it was a nice sounding board and kind of, hey, how are you feeling? And then he'd ask me the same thing.

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

SHARON AMAYA: Kind of having that knowledge of let me check my heart rate. Our fancy watches also have oxygenation levels.

JOHN WHYTE: Oh, wow.

SHARON AMAYA: So we had --

JOHN WHYTE: OK, that is fancy.

SHARON AMAYA: So you can do spot checks of oxygen levels just to be on the safe side. So just -- and just keeping up with the knowledge of, again, there's really no cure or fast remedy and all these old wives' tales of doing this or that. Just, again, the good old-fashioned advice of just sleeping, drinking plenty of fluids -- generally taking care of yourself is the best medicine.

JOHN WHYTE: Well, that's good advice. And I'm glad to hear you're doing much better. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk today.

SHARON AMAYA: Absolutely, I hope that everybody can stay safe out there. Wash your hands stay at home if you can, so.

JOHN WHYTE: And thank you for watching Coronavirus in Context. I'm Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Officer at WebMD.