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A Headache? Sinus Infection? It Turned Out to be COVID-19

Patti Singer

Roberta Carter urges African Americans to learn about COVID-19. Video by Patti Singer Media for Minority Reporter Media Group

At first, Roberta Carter thought she had a sinus problem. For a couple of days, she took some Dayquil and Tylenol and figured that would take care of it.

Roberta Carter on a Zoom video conference May 28, 2020, talks about her experience with COVID-19. Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

That was Easter Monday.

On April 16, she was headed to Unity Hospital, where she would spend several days being treated for COVID-19.

More than a month after being discharged, the 73-year-old Irondequoit woman said she’s back to about 99%.

“People my age, just don’t take it for granted,” she said during a news conference May 28, 2020 to talk about her recovery.

Her daughter Naronda Galvin echoed her mother. She saw the vibrant woman become listless – something she said could happen to anyone at any age.

“I watch kids in our neighborhood, they’re up and down the streets, no masks,” Galvin said. “They’re around each other, 20 or 30 at a time, they think they’re immune. But they’re not. … This thing is serious. Age is not an issue. Race is not an issue. None of that is an issue. It’s taking out who it wants to, how it wants, when it wants to.”

The Monroe County Department of Public Health provides periodic updates on race and ethnic data of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Through May 22, Blacks made up about 32% percent of cases despite being 16% of the population in Monroe County. Blacks accounted for 35% of hospitalizations and about 19% of deaths to that time.

As for age of people affected, children 10 and younger and seniors 100 or older have tested positive.

Symptoms have been as varied as the age range. Initially, a cough or chest pressure along with fever were thought to be telltale signs. More recently, such as loss of taste or smell and diarrhea have been reported.

Carter said she had a headache, but didn’t realize she had a temperature. Carter, who said she hadn’t eaten much, was weak and suddenly developed diarrhea. “That scared me.”

Naronda Galvin during a Zoom videoconference about seeing her mother stricken by COVID-19. Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Galvin had been to see her mother the previous day. When she called her father, James, on April 16, she said he was a little hesitant and so she headed right over.

“I see my mom laying there, she’s always lively, she’s always moving around, me and my brothers said we’re trying to keep up with her,” Galvin said. “To see her laying there very weak and not looking like herself, knowing what’s going on in the community, I was not a happy camper.”

Galvin said she didn’t have time to be afraid. “We just had to rush her in.”

Once Carter was admitted to Unity, her family couldn’t be with her.

it was the first time her husband, James, had been apart from her in 53 years of marriage.

“The three or four nights she was in the hospital, I couldn’t sleep,” James Carter said. “That was tough on me, not knowing what was going on in the hospital.”

Carter said she was tested for COVID-19 and when it came back positive, she was transferred to a unit that cared for patients with the virus.

During that time, she said she watched the staff who cared for her and others. She said she understood why health care workers were so concerned about having enough masks, gloves and gowns because she saw them don and doff the personal protective equipment whenever they prepared to come into her room and then leave.

Carter said she wants to use her experience to teach others about the seriousness of COVID-19. She urged people to listen to their bodies when something doesn’t seem right. She said COVID-19 is not a hoax, and it really can’t be compared to other illnesses. She said she heard a woman in her church say there are other diseases that sicken people.

“I had to tell her why it was important,” Carter said. “When I go through and explain it to her, she said ‘Now you say it that way, it makes sense.’”

Carter said no one else in her family has tested positive for the virus. She is a vigorous cleaner and said when James comes back from an errand, she wants to spray him down. She laughed as she said it but wanted people to know that nothing about COVID-19 is a joke.

Galvin urged adult children to check on their parents or loved ones. “It just takes a moment of you saying ‘I’ll do it tomorrow,’ and tomorrow might be too late.”