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Coronavirus Stories: Tina Baker (Recovery) | Remdesivir

Tina Baker’s Story Pt. 2 (Recovery)

Infection: Work trip to London
Home: Palo Alto, CA
1st Symptoms: Sore throat, major fatigue
COVID-19 Test: Positive
Case: Moderate to severe
Treatment: Clinical Drug Trial (Remdesivir)
Status: Recovered, back to work (from home)

Tina Baker*
Coronavirus Stories
Moderate to Severe Case
Young & No Underlying Medical Conditions
Part II: Recovery (with Remdesivir)

*Pseudonym to protect patient’s identity

Fast Facts

  • Diagnosis:
    • COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
  • 1st Symptoms:
    • Sore throat
    • Fatigue
    • Chills
    • Fever (10 days, mostly 100-101 degrees Fahrenheit)
    • Nausea
    • Shortness of breath

  • Treatment:
    • Remdemsivir
      • Clinical drug trial
      • Developed as possible treatment for Ebola virus infection, now under clinical testing to treat COVID-19
  • Treatment Center:
    • PAMF (Urgent care, 1st tests)
    • Stanford (Clinical drug trial and hospitalization)
  • Status:
    • Recovered

Table Of Contents

Recovery in the Hospital

Your fever broke after the first infusion

[After the remdesivir infusion] the nurses covered my body with ice packs. An hour later the ice packs all melted. But at that point, my fever went down to 99.9. Then I remember that was the turning point because thereafter my fever stayed below a hundred for the next three to four days.

That’s why I feel so hopeful about the future for everyone else.

I can only speak from my experience. Within that same evening that I got the full transfusion, I had that crazy dream where I was hallucinating. I felt it was really helping my body to fight off the infection because 10 to 30 minutes afterwards, my fever really raged. It really got up to a high point. My body was just fighting it over the next few hours. 

My fever had never been more than a low-grade fever. It hovered between 100.3 and 100.7 which is what the doctor said was classic COVID – you have a low-grade fever. Every time they came in it was always between 100.3 and 100.7, I was on Tylenol.

When I was on remdesivir it got up to 103 and I think it was because my body was okay, let’s do this, let’s fight this thing out once and for all. That happened after my first clinical trial drug experience.

I kept getting it around the same time, around 5 o’clock until I went through my entire clinical trial drug treatment.

After the fever subsided, what were the other side effects?

The chills, the aches, the night sweats were all related to the fever so those all went away.   That was a huge amount of progress because at that point I had had it for over a week. I felt so much better and just knowing that okay, maybe I could do this. I think I’m going to be fine. 

That was the first time I really thought okay, I think I can beat this. The part that was scary though is my breathing hadn’t changed. It was still really hard to do more than three seconds, any more than three seconds of breathing. So it was all still very shallow.

Describe the shallow breathing

I couldn’t take a deep breath at all if I tried to. I felt I had to cough. It felt like my lungs were going to collapse if I tried to breathe, take a deep breath.

When I say shallow breathing, I couldn’t breathe in for more than three to four seconds.  

But my dad could not even do that. When he was on the oxygen machine, he was low. Stanford says they want to see above 93%. That’s what they consider to be good. Mine was always at 97%.

Eating became top priority

This is actually pretty important. The doctor told me my only job was to eat half of what was on my plate, if not all of it. She said your body needs to get proteins. Proteins create enzymes. I  had to eat all the food on my plate. So even if you don’t want to eat, you need to. Not eating is actually going to hurt your immune system so you need to keep your body going. You have to eat food, you have to keep your digestive system going, keep eating even if your fever’s going and you don’t want to.

I wasn’t doing that that first week I had it so I remember I would force myself to eat. It wasn’t a pleasant process but I remember the day after I got the first treatment I was starving. I ordered orange juice, two bowls of oatmeal, a whole bunch of food for lunch and dinner. I remember feeling okay this is good my appetite is back.

What’s your advice on dealing with nausea and keeping food down?

Everyone’s going to have a different experience but for me, ordering the same thing for every meal helped me. Planning it out, having your routine. Every morning I would order oatmeal and drink orange juice. The orange juice was very helpful against the nausea and the oatmeal was very bland so it was easier to keep it down. I had the nausea before the clinical trial. 

What helped you manage your breathing?

I couldn’t do anything but shallow breathing for  almost two weeks. But that really was what it was. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re doing shallow breathing. When you realize you’re doing shallow breathing is when you start to panic. It’s like I can’t take a deep breath. I trained myself to not think about it. 

[The medical staff] told me my homework was to just get up and walk around. Don’t just lie in bed all day, get up. They told me when I ate a meal, don’t lie in bed and eat it, sit up, sit in a chair and eat it. Your lungs expand.

That’s probably something important to know. Maybe for people it’s to sit up with your back really straight. When you’re done eating, don’t just go lie down, walk around. Just try to get exercise.

So I would just pace around the room. That was pretty much what it was over the next three days of me being on the clinical trial. 

How did you recover and reconnect with family?

I was slowly able to get up. I was able to walk around. I remember looking out the window and just seeing the first signs of spring. They had a beautiful garden with all these tulips that I was looking at.

And I remember just feeling very overwhelmed by how beautiful it all was. And how flowers are so beautiful. They don’t live very long.

And I was just thinking about how that’s very similar to the human experience. You have your peak and then it goes down after that. So you just have to enjoy every moment. I was having all these thoughts.

At that point I also learned I had a landline, so I was able to finally call my parents. That’s when I learned, my dad had gone to the hospital, my mom was home, she’s terrified,  just calling my husband and him saying he had fever symptoms as well. But the kids luckily didn’t have any.

It was just too much to think about. So I remember being like, just one step at a time. The doctor, not the infectious disease doctor, the other one that I had gone after I checked into the inpatient room, she was so kind and called my mom. My mom called my husband every day.   just to see how they were doing and checking in on them. And so I felt very good about that.

Remdesivir was a successful drug for you

I can only speak from my own experience, but I thought that was an incredibly powerful [medication]. And I just feel that [medication] could be the one to save people. It’s all because they were telling me not only about my own experience. They’re telling me about other people who have taken it.

There was somebody who was very, very sick for two days, very sick – worse than me. And then they took it and then they were able to go home shortly after. So I feel it was something that was not only helping me, but it was helping other people.

It’s in clinical trial so not widely available. You were one of the lucky ones.

It’s not that easy to get remdesivir apparently at other hospitals. Cause my poor dad, who I infected, was at Washington hospital in Fremont and they gave him hydroxychloroquine which you may have heard about in the news. It is something that is used to treat malaria. It’s something you take orally. I told him he should ask them for remdesivir and then my mom told it to the nurse.

My dad was on a ventilator so he wasn’t really able to do a lot of communicating on his own. So my mom told the nurse and they said that’s a last resort. We don’t just give that out. And so I realized that Stanford is a very well-resourced hospital. A lot of places are not just gonna give it to you. I’m feeling very sad at that point, but really thankful for my own experience. 

Availability of remdesivir

I’m jumping timelines but after I was discharged, the research coordinator who was working for the infectious diseases doctor called me to check up on how I was doing. I gave her all the details, I was feeling a lot better.

I asked is this going to be more broadly available? She said this is still a clinical drug trial but everyone we’ve given it to has had a similar reaction to you which is that they’ve gotten better quickly. It turned a lot of cases that were severe into moderate to mild ones pretty quickly.

Everyone who’s coming to Stanford, we’re giving it to people, not just people with COVID, it covers a broad range of cases. You don’t just have to necessarily be testing positive. It could be even if you haven’t gotten your positive test back, we might be able to give it to you and do something about it because they’ve seen it make such a big difference.

I felt very good about that. That there’s a [drug] at least I know personally that worked for me, sounds it’s working for other people, that you can get this broadly at Stanford.  

How did they make the decision to discharge you from the hospital?

They discharged me that day because they felt they also saw a lot of progress. They don’t need to just keep coming every day to take my temperature and to throw out their PPE. I have COVID, but I can go home and I can self-manage. I could be an outpatient. They said they would just call me and every day check in. So they gave me some paperwork to fill out.

Quarantine at Home

How long was the recovery and then the self-quarantine?

Three weeks for recovery. And actually the three weeks was something that I had to kind of push for cause at first the nurse said two weeks and I’m like, ah, I feel I need more than that because two weeks doesn’t feel like enough time, it just flies by. She’s like, okay, I can write three weeks. And if anything, if I feel better, I can always go back earlier. But I would at least have the room for three weeks.

The quarantine was for two weeks after my last symptoms disappeared. So I’m still in quarantine right now.

When do they consider it to be the last day of symptoms?

It would be the day when my breathing got back to normal cause that’s still a symptom. My breathing was not back to normal when I left, almost the same as it was when I came in. 

I know for a fact the entire time the oxygen machine attached to my finger never dropped below 97%. And even though it was shallow breathing, [I didn’t] need to just be [at the hospital].

When did your breathing normalize?

[The breathing recovery] felt slow but it was very fast because I remember when I got home it was March 19th the first day of spring. I love fall and thought it was the best season of the year. But now I like spring as the best season of the year because that was the day I got a second chance at life after discharge. 

I was driving home. There were signs of spring everywhere. All these things, all these beautiful flowers and things are brought to life. And so I really liked that.

The 19th is when I was discharged. That was Thursday. By Saturday, I was counting the seconds. It was going up to four seconds, five, and slowly I could feel like I was able to [breathe] again.

I felt it was slow because all of Thursday, all of Friday, I was like I can’t even  easily just take a deep breath or walk without feeling winded. But by that Saturday I was like, okay, this is getting a lot better.

What were the official instructions for self-quarantine?

They told me that I have to be by myself in a unit with my own bathroom. You shouldn’t be sharing a bathroom with other people. And I was thinking it’s probably hard for a lot of people.

They said you need to be in your own room. No one should be in there for any reason at all. The way that they were coming into the [hospital] room with the full body protective gear, throwing it away. They said it shouldn’t be any different for anyone coming in to see you. 

So I went back to the guest house. My husband was not anywhere near me. The kids would come and look in the window and see me, but that was it. Through the window. 

The door has a big window and so they would just come and say hi. But I locked the doors so they couldn’t come in.  I ordered food every day. I was in no shape to cook. You wash your clothes separately. And they said that I should use plastic in terms of eating. Don’t use the same silverware.

Recovering at home felt harder

I remember coming back was actually a really hard experience as well cause in the hospital you don’t have to think about anything – you’re taken care of.

If anything happened, the machine would start beeping. People would bring food for you. They would check your temperature. You didn’t have to deal with real life coming back, seeing the kids, knowing they’re out of school, knowing my dad’s in the hospital. Knowing that I’m not at work right now and I’m managing these people who have no idea what the hell they’re supposed to do. 

But I remember before I left the hospital, I wrote down on my iPhone some lessons that I learned. And I remember just being very true to myself, being like I’m not going to forget this.

How did the medical staff check up on you when you were at home?

A discharge nurse would call me and she was just kinda checking. I was in outpatient care. So she called me twice.  She checked on my breathing, she asked me if I had any questions. She asked if I wanted to talk to the infectious diseases doctor about the clinical trial but I didn’t really have any questions. It was a very short call.

The city also checked in with you

The day I got back, I remember someone from the city of Palo Alto called because they saw my COVID test. They said they were calling everyone who had a positive test just to document where they’re living, their address. I don’t know why, just to know which houses, maybe they’re gonna put a big black X on my house!

They called me and they asked me a bunch of details. I gave them all the information. I asked why are you asking for this information? They said we just need to document how bad it was in our own county.

Taking care of mental health is so important

A bit of an aside, I felt really guilty. I even had nightmares when I came home about work and I was having calls and I needed to be productive. And so I literally woke up, I was like, I’m going to call my boss and tell him I’m better and I can work from home. 

I’m seeing a therapist. She told me three weeks sounded like not very much time at all. She said you need to not feel guilty about this. You’ve earned the right to take time off after something like this.

She said your homework is to not feel guilty. She gave me a series of exercises on how to manage the anxiety and the guilt over this. I was feeling really guilty about  not being at work and being productive.

So over the past week, I’m actually managing a lot better and just allowing myself to take this time off. No one’s giving me a hard time. A lot of people are just very sympathetic.  I think they’re just trying not to overwhelm me.

Dad’s Severe Case of Coronavirus

Your parents are both in the higher risk group

My mom and dad are both over 60. My dad has serious heart problems that he’s been managing with the help of a lot of drugs. He sees a cardiologist regularly. My mom is pre-diabetic, so they’re right in that group.

Where did they get the COVID swab?

They got the COVID swab that was made specifically by Stanford. 

March 2nd is when I started exhibiting symptoms. On the 7th is when my parents got tested. And then I think on the 12th is when they got the results back. So it was five days. They were confirmed to have coronavirus. So at that point, my dad, uh, was at home. He didn’t go to the hospital yet. He went to the hospital there shortly afterwards because of the 103 fever.

Describe the Stanford COVID testing clinic

They went to Stanford hospital. Stanford is actually making their own tests and so they’re able to do it a bit more liberally. But they won’t just give it to you either. Someone there told me that they ran out of one of the chemicals needed to make the test and so they were running short, themselves.   

But they had a COVID clinic right outside. There was a pretty long line. So my parents went late at night on Saturday because at that point they were both exhibiting symptoms.

They were both just worried. And so they said they would give them a test but they had to wait in line. So they just waited in the car cause it was very windy. By the time I called them, they actually put them in an ER room because my mom was saying she was feeling tightness in her chest. And my dad already had all these publicly documented cause he’s been to Stanford before, so they brought them into an emergency room. They were there for five hours. He left at 5:00 AM. 

My dad, they did the full blood tests. They did an X Ray. Their lungs were clean and so they didn’t have any issues like the ones that I had, but they were showing the classic coronavirus blood work results, which is your white and red blood cells are very low. And one protein was very high.  

So even though they didn’t get the test back, they were like you guys have it, you need to go home and you need to  quarantine with all the same instructions that I just shared with you. You need to have your own bathroom. Do not go anywhere, for as long as it takes.

How did your dad end up in the hospital?

My mom called 9-1-1 and told them that they had to take him to the hospital and they actually didn’t want him there. They were like it’s just a fever. He’s okay to just continue to stay at a home as an outpatient. But she’s like you don’t understand. He has bad heart problems. He has a really high fever – it was 103 at that point. I, after having gone through myself and know how bad that was, can’t believe they didn’t want to take him in. But my mom was insistent on taking him.

So he went to Washington hospital and when they checked his breathing, they were really worried because he was only getting 88% oxygen on his own. When they put him on a ventilator and they gave him oxygen, he was only at 90 to 92% at any given time. That’s still below that 93%. I heard that’s what Stanford wanted.

Your dad took hydroxychloroquine instead of remdesivir

They were very concerned and they gave him hydroxychloroquine. They said they did have remdesivir there but they said that’s only a last resort. I’m not sure why. Maybe they don’t have a lot of it but they never gave it to him at any point, which I think was really a shame. I think that would’ve helped a lot because it helped me.  

Hydroxychloroquine is something you take orally and it didn’t seem it had an immediate effect. But over the course of his four-day stay at the hospital, he seemed to be getting better and he actually was discharged. He came home and he’s been doing well ever since.

When he left, he was breathing at about 93% on his own, which is actually still very scary if you think about it. But he really wanted to come home. He didn’t want to be in the hospital and the doctors felt he was doing better to at least be an outpatient.

Your dad’s coronavirus case was classified as severe

My dad had a severe case. Luckily he’s fine now, but he had to be on a ventilator. He was at 88% oxygen level. That’s considered pretty critical. And so they put him on an oxygen machine. 

Even on the ventilator, he was only hitting 90, 92. So that was really scary. That’s a totally different story than me. I was able to do shallow breathing the whole time and I was able to get enough oxygen to keep it at a good level.

What was his hospital experience?

His hospital was a way worse experience. The nurses were not very helpful. They didn’t share information freely. We were trying to get him transferred up to Stanford and they said they would start the paperwork. They never did it during his stay and so it was not a good experience.

It was very different [from mine]. They wouldn’t give him the remdesivir even though they had it. They said it was a last resort, which I don’t understand because he had what they classified a severe case. I’m so grateful that he’s okay now he’s at home and he’s breathing, he’s walking around.

How did they self-quarantine?

They’re on two different floors. They’re not sharing silverware and all that stuff. They are sleeping in their own rooms and they have their own bathroom, but they’re definitely sharing a common eating space.

They got a call from their county

Someone called them from Alameda County the same way that Palo Alto called me and they said that they would have someone come by to check on them to make sure that they actually didn’t leave the house because they had to be quarantined. They got that call a couple of days after they got  the positive test, which was on that Thursday the 12th.

Final Thoughts

Keeping some humor

I remember there was some humor too. [At Stanford] at some point they brought in an old charger they got from lost and found. And I finally looked at the news. In Santa Clara County. There’s been 26 more cases of confirmed coronavirus.

And I realized that my parents were two of the 26 because they got tested at Stanford.  I’m like oh my gosh, they’re statistics! My mom was even joking about it and she’s like everything we do is so dramatic. So we were still trying to find some humor in it.

What are you walking out of this with?

What I’m coming out of this with is not a criticism of anyone. I’m walking out of this with so much gratitude because so many people I met at the hospital from the doctors who were caring for me to the very first doctor who thought I had it, called me everyday and gave me his cell phone number, to the nurses who treated me I was a human being, risked their lives everyday coming in, potentially exposing themselves. 

I have nothing but gratitude for them. I feel there’s nothing they could have done any differently. They’re doing the absolute best they can. This is probably a shock to their system to have to care for someone who has this virus, someone at my age, who’s getting it at a pretty moderate to severe level.

How would you have managed this experience differently?

I would have taken it a lot easier on myself.

I know a lot of people in this day and age in Silicon Valley and all over the world really push themselves to do their best, to put their best foot forward and prove they add value and all these things.

But you need to put your health first. If you’re seeing all these signals: you have a fever, you’re not breathing right. Even if it isn’t coronavirus, you need to put your health first. I’m pretty sure pushing myself that hard made it all that much worse. 

he hard way. If something were to happen to me, my company will continue to go on. Whatever goals other people have, they’ll find someone else to do it. But my children only get this one mother. I only have this one life to live. Why would I put myself on the line for something like that? You need to put your health first. It’s the only life that you have.

You enter this world with nothing. You leave with nothing. Everything else in between is just an experience. You just have to have gratitude for the entire thing. I would have had more faith that I was going to be okay. The entire e time I was going to be horrified I was going to have to say goodbye to my children. I had all these crazy thoughts of what’s going to happen to  my daughter after this experience? She’s not going to have a mom, she’s so attached to me. I was thinking all these crazy thoughts. I wish I had more faith that I was going to be okay.

I wish I had more respect for my body growing up. Like a lot of people in life, I always had a very hard time with body image. In the end my body is what saved me. It kicked this virus out of its system. After everything it has been through, it still did that for me.

I’m just so grateful for the fact that my body can do all these things. I’m never going to mistreat it again. Never look upon it as anything other than this amazing miracle – children came from it, I was able to beat this virus from it, it’s a miracle.

That’s something I will do differently, wish I had done differently and will continue to do differently: just respect my body and love it the way it is because it went through so much this week and got through it. Even my dad in the state of his health, he got through it. Our bodies keep fighting for us. We just have to get out of the way.

What’s your message to people who still aren’t convinced about the seriousness of coronavirus?

A lot of people are not taking coronavirus more seriously. When I go walking in the yard, I see a lot of people walking around. When my husband went to take the kids for a walk on Sunday, the Palo Alto farmers market is still open, people are flooding it and buying all these things.

It doesn’t seem a big deal because a lot of people get it and they’re asymptomatic but a lot of people I went on the trip with, none of them have stepped forward and said they have coronavirus probably because they’re asymptomatic. Everyone’s telling me everyone’s freaking out, wish people would stop panicking, stop hoarding. 

Well I almost don’t blame people for trying to stock up on things because after having gone through this, it is a big fucking deal. I gave it to my whole family! I couldn’t breathe more than just shallow breaths for almost 2 weeks. I had a fever for 10 days. That is crazy. I’m considered a young person and I got it, and gave it to my whole family. Can you imagine if you got it and gave it to your whole family? It is a big deal. Just because you’re asymptomatic doesn’t mean other people will be. 

We should all stay calm, but you shouldn’t judge people for feeling panic either because it is actually a big deal. You don’t want to go through it.

I actually thought I was going to die. My dad was in the hospital. I didn’t know what was going to happen to him. I gave it to my husband who was watching my children. It is a really serious thing. People should really stay home. Just because you’re not showing it doesn’t mean you don’t have it and you can’t give it to someone who takes it worse. That’s one thing they told me – everyone reacts to it differently.

I was thinking why am I in my 30s and why do I have this? Everyone reacts differently. Someone could be completely asymptomatic and the next person could get it. There are people in their 20s and 30s who get it. Don’t assume because you don’t have it bad that other people won’t. My husband did not have anything other than a bit of a fever one day then it went away. He’s older than me – 6 years older, so he’s 43.

Just because it’s not a big deal for you doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal for someone else.

I hope this experience can show other people that actually it is very scary. You could be relatively young and get it. I had what they called a moderate to severe case. Otherwise a healthy person, I don’t smoke, I don’t have asthma, no chronic issues, but it still affected me pretty badly. I had access to a very good hospital system that gave me this drug that helped but not everyone’s going to have access to that. 

←Back (Part 1: Diagnosis & Treatment)


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