The night she was admitted to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center with symptoms of coronavirus, Rose Burge’s heart rate was so low, doctors ordered an EKG.
After unplugging the electrodes, the nurse sat by her bedside and asked her if she believed in God.
Burge replied that she did.
“She said, ‘Can I pray for you?” Burge recalls.
The recollection of that brief encounter a week ago, on Monday afternoon overwhelmed Burge with emotion. The 36-year-old Harrisburg resident remains in the hospital, sick from COVID-19.
“It kind of eased me because you are in here by yourself,” said Burge, who on Monday remained in isolation with pneumonia in both lungs.
She said she is weak, fatigued and has recurring headaches.
She agreed to speak to PennLive, she said, in order to let other young people know that the pandemic, which has infected thousands in Pennsylvania and hundreds of thousands worldwide, affects everyone – not just the elderly.
“They are telling us it’s worse for older people but it seems like a lot of younger people are catching it,” Burge said. “I‘ve seen some people here that don’t look too much older than me.”
She described her condition as “maintaining.” She said she has no appetite and because she cannot be given fluids intravenously due to the pneumonia; she has to force down fluids.
Burge is one of the 4,087 coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania. On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 693 new cases.
RELATED: Pa. coronavirus cases top 4,000
At least 48 people have died from the viral infection, including 10 new fatalities reported Monday, according to the health department.
Health officials have urged younger adults to take the coronavirus seriously. Across Pennsylvania, 41 percent of those who have contracted the virus are between the ages of 25 and 49, according to the health department.
Older adults are more likely to develop complications and require hospitalization. Roughly three out of four patients who have required hospitalization are 50 and over. Only 22 percent of those who have required hospital care are between the ages of 25 and 49, according to state data.
Burge first suspected she might have COVID-19 two weeks ago on Sunday.
She had a fever, body aches and was vomiting. She went to Hershey Medical Center, and although she was admitted for a short time, the medical team declined to test her because she was “low risk.”
Still, the medical team proceeded in treating her as if she was COVID-19 positive. Doctors and nurses followed the appropriate protocol and kept in-room visits to the shortest amount of time as possible.
On Tuesday, she was discharged. Burge said she was given no additional information on her condition at the time.
By Tuesday night, Burge had gone downhill fast. Her breathing was the first thing to fall apart.
“It felt like someone was suffocating me or sitting on my chest,” Burge recalls.
She tried to nurse herself back to health at home, but her condition only worsened. On Saturday afternoon she drove herself back to Hershey Medical Center.
She tested positive; and she had pneumonia in both lungs.
“Some days are good,” Burge said. “Last night was bad … they gave me medicine to put me to sleep. The pain was kind of bad. I haven’t eaten anything. It’s just a very uncomfortable situation.”
Burge said she has abdominal and chest pain from the pneumonia, as well as the headaches, which she said doctors attribute to the coronavirus.
She is being administered medicine for the viral infection, although she does not know what the medicines are.
“I‘m so out of it, I don’t remember,” she said. “They do tell me what they are.”
Burge has retraced her steps leading to her symptoms and has concluded that she left the house only twice after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered non-essential businesses to close on March 16.
That Monday, Burge, who works at the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency in Harrisburg, worked just a half day. She left the office after a 1 p.m. meeting.
After that, she went out to Giant (that same day) and a couple of days later made three quick stops at various stores looking for pull-ups for her 2-year-old son. She said that because everyone was “panic buying,” she was unable to find any.
“I was basically staying in the house … I didn’t go anywhere,” she said.
Burge has notified her supervisor. Her parents are taking care of her son, and all remain under a 14-day quarantine.
She said she has no energy,
“I‘m very, very fatigued,” said Burge, who FaceTimes her mother several times a day. “It’s almost a waiting game.”
She said the medical staff at Hershey Medical Center seem to be on top of things.
“They do the best they can with what they have,” Burge said. “My nurses are really good at making sure I‘m comfortable. I see them more than I see the doctor.”
Wolf has said he and health officials are concerned that if the rapid spread of the virus continues at the current pace, the state’s hospitals could be overwhelmed. The first case of coronavirus in the state was reported on March 6.
She said the hospital personnel who enter her room wear a protective device resembling a “space helmet.” Before they leave her room, they sterilize their hands with their gloves on, then take everything off. Someone on the other side of the door has to open the door for them; and once they step out, they sterilize down again, including wiping down their shoes.”
Burge is not allowed out of her room. She and the other COVID-19 patients are in a separate wing of the hospital.
“You are in here by yourself,” she said.
That, she said, is why the prayer session with the nurse was so special.
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