CUMBERLAND — A city couple is feeling a bit better after battling COVID infections that hit them around Halloween.
Janet Lawler-Heavner and her husband Ron Heavner, both 66, experienced a rapid onset of symptoms, but escaped hospitalization, Lawler-Heavner said Wednesday.
“It wasn’t fun at all,” she said. “We were both plenty uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to (be admitted) to the hospital. We’re glad it didn’t develop into pneumonia for either one of us.”
Exactly how and when an infection takes place can be difficult to pinpoint, but the Heavner’s story began shortly after Ron did some home improvement work for friends, a married couple, on Oct. 27 and again on Oct. 29.
He then learned that the wife of the couple started feeling ill on Oct. 30.
“The woman of the house tested positive,” Lawler-Heavner said. “She started having symptoms the day after he was doing some work up there inside. He was masked but they were not because it was their home. Her husband never came down with it.
“So Ron got it first and brought it home to me. He started feeling bad on Halloween. He developed a dry cough and extreme fatigue. His fever went up to about 101 and he had a really bad headache and achy joints.”
Lawler-Heavner said she started having a cough about two days later.
“We started wondering (if it could be COVID-19) because we both had flu shots. I had a horrible headache for about three or four days and my temperature went up over 100 and I started with the coughing and aches and pains, similar to the flu.
“We both had fatigue and I had a sore throat more than Ron did,” Lawler-Heavner said. “We also had runny noses but we never did have any shortness of breath or chest pain, thank God.”
After learning their friend tested positive for the disease, the Heavners were tested Nov. 2 at a UPMC Urgent Care center. The next day, she was called by a contact tracer from the state health department.
“We hadn’t even been notified yet from UPMC that our test was positive,” Lawler-Heavner said. “So they were on it and I was pleased they picked up on it that fast.
“I wasn’t notified by UPMC until Friday the 6th,” she said. “They listened to our lungs and they were clear. We were told by UPMC if you have trouble breathing call 911 or get to the hospital. They just said take ibuprofen or Tylenol to reduce your fever and for the aches and pains and stay quarantined. If you were in the same room around other people wear a mask.”
The Heavners were impressed with the state’s contract tracing staff.
“They say answer the call if you get a call,” said Lawler-Heavner. “The caller ID said MD-COVID. I think they did an excellent job. They check with you every three days by text or call; you get to choose.”
Lawler-Heavner said she and her husband gave the tracer names and phone numbers of people they’d been in close contact with and were asked a series of questions.
“They are trying to find out who you could have infected or who could have infected you,” she said.
Lawler-Heavner said she and her husband lost the sense of smell. “That was a very strange thing. One night I got out Vicks VapoRub due to the cough and I could not smell the Vicks. ... We didn’t lose our sense of taste. I missed some of the subtleties, but I could still taste salt and sweet. A good friend sent a get-well chocolate cake and I could definitely taste that chocolate and I was very grateful.”
Janet was still resting a good portion of the day as of Wednesday.
“I think I have experienced more fatigue than Ron,” she said. “He bounced back pretty quickly. I’ve just been trying to stay out of bed. I didn’t bounce back as quickly as he did. But we’ve starting to come back. I have read where it can take weeks and months to come back in some cases.
“Neither one of us have underlying medical conditions. We consider ourselves pretty lucky. My husband is in really good shape. He is an avid bicyclist. He bikes an average of 30 miles a day. So he is in excellent physical condition. I am in above-average physical condition. Both of us have been hiking and cycling in the last several months before COVID.”
Lawler-Heavner said her fever lasted seven days.
“I think that is what wore me down. I think once you have a fever for that long it takes a toll on your body,” she said. “But I’ve had a good couple days. I haven’t done much but I do feel better.”
And Lawler-Heavner had some advice to stay healthy. “I just would say to people wear your mask, stay 6 feet apart, wash your hands ... think about the other people who are relying on you to keep them healthy,” she said.