Words matter! Words are our most powerful way of communicating. Although we have always known it subconsciously, science has confirmed the tremendous power words have on ourselves, communities, and the world. No one knows this better than Robyn Benge. Seven months ago, coronavirus, was not a word that was part of her vocabulary, even though she has been a nurse for 25 years. Today, it is a word that is not only part of her vocabulary; it has indeed affected her life, her community, and her world. Her life changed when coronavirus became more than a word; it became a diagnosis. Robyn agreed to share her story with our readers.
It was hard for her to grasp the severity of what she was going through. COVID-19, coronavirus, is the disease that caused a global pandemic. She has no idea how she contracted COVID-19. Robyn did all of the things that she was supposed to do. She was not around anyone with symptoms. Her first symptom, and indication, that something was wrong was a fever. Symptoms can last somewhere from a few days to weeks, and her symptoms built upon each other. The fever continued to spike, a terrible cough added to the list of issues, and after a week, she took a turn for the worse. Her husband drove her to the emergency room. To the chagrin of both of them, after they admitted her, he had to leave her: alone, isolated, with no moral support.
While in the hospital, she was experiencing delirium. She was burning with fever, could not get enough air, and was too fatigued to move. In addition, her diagnosis was double pneumonia and sepsis. She knew, from her medical experience, that she did not want to be put on a ventilator, and the hospital let her make that decision. No family was allowed to visit. Everyone coming into the room came in with face masks and all gowned up. No one could take her hand or stroke her arm to calm her down and to tell her that everything would be OK. This was the closet that she has ever come to a near-death experience. It was so overwhelming that she often wondered if there was going to be a tomorrow. After an excruciating week in the hospital, she was discharged to go home and self-quarantine for an additional two weeks. While recovering at home, she still feels at times fatigued and winded, with both good days and bad days without apparent rhyme nor reason.
For fortunate patients like Robyn, beating the virus is just the beginning. She says that people, who are not educated regarding the disease, assume it is her fault and treat her differently. The mental drain is as tough as the virus itself. She says that some people are scared of her now. One of the most unusual aspects is the experience with her own doctors. They made her feel like a pariah, like it was her fault that she got sick. Robyn had to remind them that the fact that she had COVID-19, survived, and tested negative made her one of the safest people in the nation. This is another reason Robyn wanted to share her story.
Surviving coronavirus has been a blessing for Robyn. It has driven her to educate people about the debilitating disease and to pay it forward. People who know that she has survived are now calling her for advice, not just patients, but their families also. In addition to now testing negative for COVID-19, Robyn’s antibody test has come back positive. People who have recovered from the disease have COVID-19 antibodies in their plasma and may be able to help others with coronavirus by donating their plasma. OneBlood is collecting plasma from recovered coronavirus patients to be used as a potential treatment option. The treatment is called COVID-19 convalescent plasma, and it is an experimental therapy that the FDA has given emergency permission to use for COVID-19 patients. Robyn is paying it forward by donating her plasma, three bags the very first week of her donation.
Robyn Benge’s final words, because words matter: Be Safe! Get Tested! Quarantine Whenever Possible! Do not be a hater to those infected; be a lover because they need and deserve it!