On March 13, Trish Remley thought she was coming down with a cold brought on by chronic asthma. A visit to her doctor sent her on an emotional journey that started with a positive COVID-19 test.
“I figured I had asthma, maybe some allergies. I’ve had a cough associated with asthma, so the only reason I contacted my doctor was to get my inhaler refilled. When she heard me on the phone, she called in my refill, but she said ‘We should probably check you out,’” Ms. Remley said.
She has been recovering at her home in Carpinteria and spoke to the News-Press by phone.
Ms. Remley went to her doctor’s office in Ojai on March 27 so her doctor could examine her bronchioles and lungs. After the examination, Ms. Remley’s doctor suggested a COVID-19 test because she sounded congested. They tested her that day, and the results came back positive on March 29.
“I had the underlying issues of asthma and high blood pressure. I didn’t even have a fever or body aches. It was a fluke for me, I was staying in anyway. My husband was still working as an electrician at the airport (Santa Barbara Airport), but never really came in contact with people because he would work on the tarmac outside,” Ms. Remley said.
She felt the worst of the symptoms, fatigue and shortness of breath, around March 16. Her doctor gave her a Z-Pak inhaler on March 27 and she felt better when she finished the inhaler on March 31.
Ms. Remley still suffers from a nagging cough, but she attributes that to her chronic asthma.
“Once my bronchioles are irritated it’s hard for me to heal right away so I still have the horrible cough, but I feel good. I’m doing stuff around the house. A week ago I still felt a little short of breath. I’d say I feel better, but at the same time they don’t know if you’re immune after you’ve had it,” Ms. Remley said.
Santa Barbara County Public Health Department officials released her from mandatory home isolation on April 9. Ms. Remley said they conducted a phone interview and then sent a staffer to get her signature on some forms.
“Once you’ve tested positive they’ll ask you who you’ve been in contact with, and where you’ve been, trying to pinpoint where you got it,” Ms. Remley said.
She explained Ventura County Public Health contacted her because her doctor was in their jurisdiction. When Ventura officials determined her address was in Carpinteria, they transferred the case to Santa Barbara County.
“They called first and asked questions about when I first started feeling the symptoms, who I may have been in contact with, where I work, other people in my household, when I felt the worst symptoms in unison with when I got tested and who I’d been around during that time I was feeling bad. They were very thorough at trying to get an idea of how many people may have been exposed. They did ask for names of anybody I may have been in contact with through work. It was a pretty thorough questioning,” Ms. Remley said.
She said she was shocked and emotional when she was first diagnosed, then embarrassed when she realized that she needed to contact the people she came into contact with. Ms. Remley compared it to those who were stigmatized during the HIV scare in the 1980s.
“I felt like ‘Oh my God, I need to tell these people.’ I felt like I could have given someone this life threatening virus,” Ms. Remley said. She called seven people she came into contact with in the days leading up to the doctor’s appointment.
“It was hard to make those phone calls, but I needed to let them know if they get any kind of symptoms, they should take it seriously. I’m glad I was able to do that. They were very understanding — more concerned about my health.”
“When I first got tested, I felt like I was gonna die in my sleep. I was having breathing issues and my husband was checking on me all the time. I’m a young 52 but still, I’m in an older age group. Now I feel more like I’ll get through this,” Ms. Remley said.
She added that her husband, Steve Bradley, is isolating at home with her, while friends have been making runs to the grocery store and dropping off care packages at her front porch so she doesn’t have to leave the house.
“It was a Godsend to have our friends taking care of us like that. It’s scary if someone doesn’t have people to watch out for them. We would tell people ‘Can you go to the store for us and we’ll give you some money?’ and they were like ‘We don’t need your money.’ They don’t want you handing them money, of course,” Ms. Remley chuckled. She said she’s been paying friends to go shopping for her through Venmo.
“In a lot of ways this has brought a lot of people together in our neighborhood. It’s made a lot of us closer. I’m just really grateful that our friends and family took care of us the way they did,” Ms. Remley said.
Right now she’s focused on her dog and cat, safe and indoors as much as possible. Ms. Remley said both her pets are very sociable. She’s been warning neighbors not to let her cat into their home if he gets out, in case he is carrying the virus.
Ms. Remley encouraged people to stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing and proper personal cleanliness and not panic if they think they’re getting sick.
“We still need to practice safety and washing hands and staying home. Definitely take the steps to keep other people safe. Give people a wide berth so you don’t give it to them and definitely wear a mask, wear gloves,” she said.