Diary From The Coronavirus Frontlines: An ER Doctor Recovers 'That Was Scary'
"Diary From The Coronavirus Frontlines" is an ongoing series of dispatches from health care workers.
In early April, Dr. Mizuho Morrison, an ER physician in Southern California, woke up feeling off.
"I knew, on day one, I probably had it."
"I hadn't even started coughing yet," she said. "I just had a fever, kind of a little bit of diarrhea and cold chills, and a little bit of runny nose."
About five days prior, she had rushed to intubate a COVID-19 patient whose status was rapidly deteriorating. She quickly put on an N-95 mask, a gown and gloves, but didn't have a face shield.
"We do the best we can and we adapt, but these are just high-risk procedures at baseline," she said. "You know, we don't have these like white paint Tyvek suits that China has."
As soon as she felt sick days later, Morrison took her two kids to her ex-husband's house so she could isolate herself at home.
She had worried this might happen. Before the pandemic hit, Morrison had drawn up a medical directive to have two of her friends who were doctors make medical decisions for her.
"That was important for me. I didn't want to have my mother make those end-of-life decisions for me," she said. "So it's, it's very real and very scary. And I know I'm not the only one."
Over the next three days, Morrison had the "textbook" presentation of COVID-19. A cough and a low-grade fever. By day four, her chest felt tight, and she started to have trouble breathing.
"It was almost like you woke up feeling like you walked up a flight of 10 steps."
As the days passed, she monitored her symptoms and her temperature, and checked in with her friends who are doctors. And she waited.
"That was scary," she said. "Until you're out of the Day 10 timeframe, you're not really safe. And so 10 days, sitting there waiting to see if you're gonna get worse and go into respiratory distress is stressful."
Her fever lasted about 11 days. Her cough lingered for two weeks. And she was short of breath for about three and a half weeks. Friends and colleagues dropped off food, bleach, and other cleaning supplies.
In the end, she'd been out of the ER for nearly a month.
She isn't alone. In L.A. County, at least 3,600 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Morrison said five physican friends in California have also gotten sick with COVID.
"I'm definitely one of the one of the luckier ones."
Morrison is back in the ER now, but as the state begins to open up, she hopes it will be done carefully and slowly, because the pandemic isn't over.
"We're in no better shape today than we were five weeks ago, except maybe we have more testing, but it's not like we have anything else to offer," she said. "If you come in sick and dying of COVID, I'm going to do the same thing I've done for the last five weeks. We don't have a magic bullet for anyone."