COVID-19 survivor shares journey

Photo by Tony Kukulich

Todd and Heidy Hurst both fell ill with the coronavirus in June. The Brentwood couple still don’t know where or how they contracted the virus.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in California, the virus is uppermost in the minds of many East County residents.

With reports the virus was running rampant in the U.S. as early as November, many wonder if they can attribute that nagging cough over Christmas or the severe, flu-like symptoms they had in January to coronavirus. Antibody tests aren’t foolproof and medical experts cannot agree if having the virus once creates immunity.

One East County real estate agent has run the gauntlet, with a positive COVID-19 test and a month of aches, pains and stomach issues. Heidy Hurst and her husband, Todd, both fell victim to it at the end of June and lost the entire month of July to quarantine and recovery.

“The final week of July, I finally started to come together, to feel like I was going to be ok,” Hurst said. “I was fatigued and disoriented from the dehydration, and my body was exhausted. It took a long time, just trying to get your mind back to normal. And the weakness, it took a long time to get my body back to its normal strength.”

Hurst said Todd began to feel sick at the end of June, on Father’s Day. She took him to get tested for COVID-19 on Monday, June 22, and received his results – positive – on Wednesday. At that point, Hurst decided to get tested, as well.

“I went Wednesday, and got my results on Friday, and they were negative,” Hurst recalled. “Then, Friday night, I was talking to my sister on the phone, late, and I thought I wasn’t going to get it, and I did, and I got it worse than my husband.”

After her phone conversation, Hurst said she felt a heaviness on her back. Within minutes, she had the chills, fever and a sinus headache.

“I was fine, and then, boom, I was just sick,” said Hurst. “I actually had a horrible sinus headache that was unbearable, I think that was the worst part, in the very beginning. The aches were so bad, it was absolutely radiating through my body, even just touching my fingers hurt, everything hurt so badly.”

To this day, the Hursts still don’t know where or how they contracted the virus. Though her test on Wednesday was negative, the results could have been inaccurate, or she could have picked it up sometime after her test appointment and before Friday night. Hurst’s work, and her husband’s business as a plumber, brings them into contact with people often, and tracing the origin of their infection is difficult.

Hurst stayed home and suffered in bed for almost two weeks. On Wednesday morning, June 10, a video appointment with her doctor ended with a recommendation she go into the emergency room.

“I told my doctor I felt terrible, and could barely breathe and was weak,” Hurst said. “He said he wanted me to go to the ER, and I hate going to the hospital, but Todd looked at me and said, you really need to go in, things aren’t going good for you, so he brought me in and they tested me again, and it was positive.”

At this point, the virus had morphed into pneumonia, filling Hurst’s lungs with fluid and making it difficult to breathe. Though her sinus headache had abated thanks to an antibiotic prescription, she had a constant sensation of cotton in her lungs, stomach cramps and a persistent case of diarrhea, causing dehydration and exhaustion.

“It never ends with this virus,” Hurst explained. “It hits you so hard with the fever, the chills, everything you can imagine. I didn’t have a cough, but I had this heaviness on my back, which Todd didn’t, and then that turned into pneumonia.”

Hurst spent one full day in the hospital, then returned home, where she spent another two weeks in bed before the virus began to let up. Initially a health-conscious person who worked out five days a week, by the time coronavirus finished with her, Hurst said she could barely walk around her house. It was August before she felt up to some light exercise.

As she and Todd ease into their new normal after recovery, Hurst said one big change for her is her willingness to order things online and skip the store, a personal experience she took great pleasure in previously.

“I’m so afraid of getting it again,” admitted Hurst. “I ask my doctors and nurses if there is proof I can’t get it again, and they told me it’s unlikely, but it’s not to say you can’t. This was probably the worst month of my life.”