HCMC nurse with COVID-19: ‘I’ve had one of the milder cases’

Jennifer Vongroven

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Jennifer Vongroven, bedside nurse, HCMC

I have been so ecstatic that it appears I’ve had one of the milder cases of COVID. 

I’ve had fever, chills, body aches, nausea, stomach upset a bit, and headaches. I’m terribly short of breath doing the smallest tasks. Going up the stairs to my bedroom is like “oof.” I’ve got to stand and breathe for a second when I get to the top. 

But while I’m tired, I’m actually not feeling too horribly overall. The fever finally broke, though I still have the congestion and the cough. I was closely monitoring my oxygen saturation because it felt like I couldn’t get enough breath, but my oxygen levels were great — not below 94% ever. Well, 93% once, but I got it back up. So I got really lucky. 

I don’t know if I’m totally in the clear yet, but I’m taking it day by day. I’m doing a lot of relaxing and sitting down. I take a walk every day to keep the lungs working. Some days I have more energy than others. 

Saturday morning I got up just happy to be in shorts and a T-shirt in Minnesota in November. I had my coffee on my front porch — I can’t really taste the coffee, but I like the warmth. All of a sudden my phone started going off that Joe Biden had been announced as president-elect. 

I immediately put my mask on and jumped in my car and played the national anthem and drove around my neighborhood honking my horn and screaming, “We’ve got a new president.” I spent some time afterward on my porch. When cars would go by, they’d honk and I’d go “woo hoo” and then it was back to bed. Even being on the porch and upright for an hour and a half knocked me out for the rest of the day. 

A lot of my coworkers have been checking in on me, and I sent an update to my boss today, letting her know what my symptoms are. I’m alive, I’m breathing, I may feel like crap, but I am upright and sentient. 

I got really lucky — masks work, social distancing works! — in that not one person who I was exposed to over my weekend in Wisconsin has contracted COVID-19. Not one person. I was carrying the weight of the world on me and was so worried I could cause someone’s illness or death. But it was a calculated risk. Wear your mask, wash your hands.


VOICES FROM THE PANDEMIC

 You can read all of the stories here.