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COVID-19 patient Donna Pratt shares her story

July 22, 2020 – News

“I am fighting for my life,” says Juneau resident Donna Pratt, 63.

Donna is a patient in the Critical Care Unit at Bartlett Regional Hospital being treated for COVID-19. She asked hospital staff to share her story with the hope that people will take the pandemic more seriously. “This is not a joke,” she says. “This is not a conspiracy. It’s real life. And I am living it.”

Donna’s first symptoms appeared July 6, the day after she returned from a long weekend trip to Anchorage with her husband and son. She felt like she had a sinus cold. “Then my breathing started getting so bad. I am high risk. I have asthma.”

Ten days after her first symptoms appeared, Donna felt like she could not breathe. Her husband called 911. Donna was taken by ambulance to the hospital and diagnosed with COVID-19. She currently remains in the critical care unit at Bartlett Regional Hospital where she is being administered oxygen.

Shortly after Donna was admitted, her son Jason Williams, 42, tested positive for the virus. Jason began experiencing symptoms two days before. He was coughing up heavy sputum and lost his appetite. By Sunday, July 19, Jason’s breathing had become rapid and shallow. “I took a shower. I thought the hot air would help,” he says. “But it just made it worse. I came close to a panic attack. I could barely breathe. I got light headed.” Jason called 911. An ambulance brought him to the hospital, where he was admitted to an isolation room next door to his mother.

He too was diagnosed with COVID-19 and required oxygen.

Donna and Jason are the first COVID-19  in-patients admitted to Bartlett since the last one was released in late April.

On their long weekend in Anchorage Donna and her family went shopping, ate in restaurants, and visited Bingo halls. They say the restaurants and bingo establishments enforced mask wearing and social distancing. “We were so careful, we wore our masks, washed our hands frequently, used hand sanitizer, and wiped down surfaces,” says Donna. Still, they contracted the virus.

COVID-19 is very contagious and can be spread by people with mild or even no symptoms.

Donna urges people to “take this virus seriously. Even if you think you are in a safe community, take precautions.”

Dr. Mimi Benjamin is the medical director for the hospitalist service at Bartlett Regional Hospital. She says there is no way to definitively determine how Donna or Jason contracted the virus. The majority of people currently testing positive for COVID-19 are in their 20s and 30s. “If you are young and you don’t wear a mask, you can inadvertently give the disease to somebody else,” notes Dr. Benjamin, “somebody who is older or has other chronic illnesses that could have a really rough time in the hospital and maybe die. It is also important to note that young patients and patients without comorbidities have died from the disease, so no one should be taking unnecessary risks right now.”

“We don’t want to lose anyone from COVID-19,” says Donna. “How important is it to go to the bar?” “How important is it to have a gathering when it is your safety [at stake] and the safety of others, especially our children, and our elders?”

Donna is persevering as she struggles to recover. “My legs hurt, my back hurts, my shoulders, my head, my arms-everything hurts,” she says.

It is difficult to predict the course of COVID-19.

Jason appears to be improving and is scheduled for release from the hospital. “I am not sure they hear it enough, but I really appreciate the EMT’s, all the nurses and hospital staff,” says Jason. “In a time of crisis, they really stepped up their game to take care of us.”

Jason and Donna are stepping up their own game.

“We’re both fighters,” says Jason. “We’ve both been through a lot. We’re survivors.”