“I am saddened to say I have been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. I am currently on antibiotics as I await confirmation of a Covid 19 diagnosis. Should be back within 48hrs.”
That is what New York City EMS paramedic Sherry Singleton texted late Wednesday to The Daily Beast, which last week chronicled her harrowing and inspiring efforts on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of people are running away from this and we’re running towards it,” she said then.
The 33-year-old had worked on through the weekend after that interview, dashing from one suspected COVID-19 case to another as the city experienced the highest volume of 911 calls in its history. She had planned to go right back out on Monday, but fell ill.
“After 2nd day of double shifts. I called out [sick] Monday with symptoms,” she texted.
The symptoms had intensified through Tuesday and on into Wednesday.
“With each day worse than the day before,” she texted.
She also broke the news on Wednesday via Instagram from her hospital bed. Video shows her in a black baseball cap and a hospital gown. She speaks through a double mask as she tells anybody who does not know her that she is an FDNY paramedic who has been in contact with many confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients.
“Approximately three days ago, I began…” she then starts to say.
“Excuse me,” she says.
She starts again.
“Approximately three days ago, I began to experience a productive cough with white sputum. I had left eye pain that gave me a very insane headache as well as pain in my peripheral.”
“My X-ray showed an opaque, or, you know basically like the cloudiness that you see in the x-ray that is indicative of pneumonia in my right lung. So the pain I could be feeling in my right flank could be referred pain, or it still could be my kidneys. They just did a CAT scan of my kidneys. They did start an IV, give me fluids for my dehydration.”
She continues, “My oxygen saturation on room air has maintained around 96 per cent....”
She looks up at a monitor.
“...97 per cent, which is not so bad. I’m sitting up, not at a full 90- degree angle, because I am in so much pain. They have given me Ttoradol, which has done absolutely nothing. I still have pain.”
She then speaks not just as an uncommonly brave and clear-headed paramedic, but as someone who has the same fears we all experience and as a mother who cannot see her 13-year-old son or her fiance.
“But yeah, like, Ii just feel winded, you all. I don’t feel good. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m anxious. And I am alone.”
In a posting accompanying the video and in her texts to The Daily Beast, she reported the particulars of her condition with the calm and clarity she had maintained while she and her EMS comrades were repeatedly running into danger. that had others running away.
“I have low grade fever (99.5), loss of smell, loss of taste, stuffy nose, productive cough, eye pain, headaches, loss of appetite, hot flashes, restlessness, shortness of breath upon exertion and lying flat/on my side, extreme right flank pain (pneumonia is currently in right lung) and overall tiredness and lethargy,” she texted.
On Instagram, she noted that she had also experienced “blurred vision (of and on) and feeling of overall anxiousness,” as well as a partial loss of hearing.
“Similar to what you’d expect on an airplane,” she wrote.
She described with professional cool her decision to seek help.
“COVID-19 has proven to affect respiratory, cardiac and renal organs. I knew I needed to go straight to the ER.”
Back on March 17, a dear friend and fellow EMS paramedic, Christell Cadet, had suddenly taken ill. Cadet had been in intensive care with confirmed COVID-19 as Singleton continued going out and risking the same. Singleton was now herself hospitalized.
“I am admitted,” she texted the Daily Beast on Wednesday night.
She texted an update on Thursday morning.
“I am on Day 4. Day 4 symptoms: increased tiredness, loss of appetite, loss of smell, loss of taste, severe dehydration, atelectasis and pneumonia on X-ray....”
Atelectasis is a deflated lung.
“I feel winded, weary and like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck on my right side & back.”
She added, “I also have chest pressure.”
She had not let her own difficulties prevent her from keeping track of Cadet’s progress. Her 34- year-old comrade remained in intensive care on a ventilator and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. ECMO uses something, similar to a heart-lung bypass machine to oxygenate the blood outside the body and then return it. The doctors had begun lowering the sedation used to keep Cadet in a medically induced coma in preparation for easing her from mechanical assistance.
“She is improving/better,” Singleton texted. “The weaning off process is meticulous and doctors are making sure they are taking their time and doing it right for her.”
Singleton summed up her own condition.
“Everything takes massive energy. I have none.”
But if she had for the moment lost much of the remarkable energy that propelled her through double shifts amidst a pandemic, she had lost none of her spirit.
“I DO NOT REGRET BEING ON THE FRONTLINES AND I PLAN TO GO BACK ASAP!!” she declared on Instagram.