By Cory L. Higgs
As the number of COVID-19 cases in Henry County reaches double digits, and with two cases in the City of Martinsville, Susan Blankenship said her diagnosis represents the third of four cases in Patrick County.
While the diagnosis was not unexpected, it was disconcerting, according to Blankenship, of the Elamsville community. That is because she and her family followed the guidelines and protocols to prevent the virus.
That included frequently washing her hands and not touching her face, as well as the prescribed social distancing and wearing protective gear like face masks and gloves. She had even isolated herself from higher risk family members.
Still, she contracted the virus.
When questioned by officials with the Virginia Department of Health who tried to determine when she may have contracted or spread the virus, Blankenship said she recalled that “Friday, May 1st is when I felt ‘funny.’
Her symptoms that first day were chills and a persistent cough, but Blankenship said she did not have an elevated temperature.
The next day, Blankenship said the cough had calmed, but she had developed a slight fever — 101.4 degrees. It was then that Blankenship said she went to the emergency room at Sovah Health in Martinsville.
Blankenship said that she kept her safety gear on during that visit.
“While in triage, the nurse took my temperature, and it was 101.3, and at that point, they told me they wanted to treat me as a COVID patient, and I was put into the isolation room,” Blankenship said, adding that she subsequently was tested.
“The tests are no piece of cake; I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” she said. “Those tests feel like they are going into the back of your neck basically, and they have to do it in each nostril.”
After she was tested, Blankenship said she was told that as a precaution, she needed to quarantine herself for 5 to 7 days or until her test results came back.
“I was already doing that,” she said. Before leaving the hospital, she was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and given a prescription.
Noting that her husband Don Blankenship and daughter Maggie, are both asymptomatic, Susan Blankenship said that health officials estimated her exposure date was around April 29. She also was told that she needs to remain isolated until May 8, when she no longer has a fever and feels better.
Blankenship said that her family must remain in isolation until May 22.
When she is able to get out and about again, Blankenship said she will continue following the recommended protocols while incorporating information she learned at the hospital. There, she said she was told that gloves may be helpful in some instances, but that ultimately, frequent hand washing was the better approach. She said she also learned that face masks are important because they help prevent the virus from spreading via droplets.
She credits the actions of Gov. Ralph Northam with helping to lessen the impact of the virus in Virginia, including banning gatherings of more than 10 people and closing non-essential businesses. Blankenship explained that she was considered an ‘essential’ worker, but working from home was not an option due to internet issues at her home.
“The restrictions by our wonderful governor are put in place for a purpose, and that purpose is to curtail the spread of this virus,“ Blankenship said, adding that she hopes the state remains closed longer.
She worries about the possibility of opening too soon and the potential resurgence of COVID-19.
“What if we reopen and cases skyrocket again? I want to be able to hug my grandson. I want to be able to hug my family, and I can’t right now,” Blankenship said. “This is serious folks. I need people to understand the importance of social distancing, wearing a face mask, washing hands, protecting yourself in public. Not only are you protecting yourself, (but also) the next person that may come along.“
“Everybody has to do these things” to help prevent spread of the virus,” Blankenship said, adding that she also advises people “stop complaining and being so stubborn about these restrictions” on businesses. “We can’t open too soon. There is too much at stake. It is our families, our loved ones.”
Blankenship is confident in her battle with the virus.
“Just know I am taking this battle one step, one day at a time,” she wrote in a social media post. “I’m fine y’all and I will be fine.”