Photo courtesy of Katie Blasl.

Well, it happened.

I’m pretty damn sick. And I’m being tested for coronavirus.

This has been one of the most frightening things I’ve ever lived through. And I’ve been through some pretty frightening health events.

After several days of a progressively worsening cough, things escalated rapidly Friday. I started feeling incredibly short of breath and deep pain while breathing. I’ve since been diagnosed with pneumonia, tested negative for flu and RSV, and gotten swabs taken and sent to the lab to test for COVID-19.

I’m 27 years old. I’ve never had pneumonia in my life. I can count the number of coughs I’ve ever had on one hand. I’m praying it’s just regular, run-of-the-mill pneumonia, but it seems awfully coincidental, considering the way this is spreading like wildfire in our local community.

Their decision to test genuinely surprised me. In the past week that I’ve been reporting on this virus, I’ve heard many stories from local people who have been extremely ill and unable to get tested because of the CDC rules. But the doctor said that because of my immunodeficiency, I’m in a high-risk group, and combined with the pneumonia, I qualified.

Lucky me.

The medications they gave me yesterday have been making the symptoms more bearable, but the constant sensation of pain in my chest when breathing is one of the scariest things I’ve ever felt.

So I’m sharing this story to ask you guys: Please, please, please take this seriously. Please.

80% of people won’t get pneumonia from this, or they’ll “only” have a mild form of pneumonia that doesn’t require hospitalization. But it’s the people like me who are in danger. People who are already struggling with an underlying illness. People like me, with a compromised immune system. People who have diabetes or asthma. People on chemotherapy. People like your parents. Your grandparents. Anyone you know over the age of 60.

You might think it’s just a cold. You might not see the danger of hanging out in a big crowd if you don’t think you’ll get very sick from this.

But when you decide to go out to a crowded restaurant or bar, or you show up to work while feeling under the weather, I’m the person you are endangering. Me, and the 20% of other people who contract this virus – which will be a large portion of the population, when all is said and done – are the people who are going to suffer because you decided not to listen to all the public officials begging you to stay home.

So here I am, adding my voice to the choir and begging you to stay home too.

This has been incredibly frightening for me. There’s very little data about what I can expect from this or how to treat it. They say it can take two weeks to recover, or three to four in more serious cases. They say you can be stable and then get seriously ill very quickly. There are conflicting reports on which medications work and which to avoid.

Meanwhile, I’m spending my time out of bed covering live streams of press conferences, where the governor warned today that New York hospitals are woefully unprepared for the number of patients who will need intensive care.

And god, that terrifies me. It terrifies me beyond words that if things get worse for me, I won’t get the help I need.

We only have 600 ICU beds and ventilators left in the whole state of New York right now, Cuomo said at his press conference today. The entire state of New York! They’re estimating cases will begin exploding in the days and weeks ahead because we’ve been so slow to test and detect the spread of this thing in our communities. With only 729 confirmed cases, we already have 65 people in the ICU across NY. That’s more than double the number of cases we had four days ago.

If things continue to progress at that rate, in two weeks, we’ll have more than 1,000 people in New York who need ventilators.

And right now, we’ve only got 600.

This is not the damn flu.

The flu doesn’t completely overwhelm our hospital systems. The flu doesn’t cause hospitals across the world to scramble for all the remaining ventilators on the global market to handle the number of patients who can’t breathe—and make it so that places like New York State literally can’t buy anymore because there are no more available, at any price.

I’ve had the flu, and the flu has never made me feel like I can’t breathe when I’m walking around my house.

And for the first time in my life, living in a state with some of the top hospitals in the entire world, I am lying awake at night in fear that I won’t be able to get the oxygen that I need if my lungs suddenly stop working.

I have no idea how this happened. I barely left the house in the past week, and I know no one else who has tested positive for this virus. Because of my immunodeficiency, we’ve been super diligent about washing our hands, sanitizing doorknobs and surfaces, and I already spent the past week working from home.

Yet here I am.

They said that testing is backed up across the county and wouldn’t give me a date for when the results would come back. Someone I know of who is also being tested was initially told a day and a half, then two days, then today was told it would be 10 days before they get results.

But at the end of the day, whether this is regular old pneumonia or the kind caused by COVID-19, I am very scared that I won’t be able to get treatment in a week if things suddenly get worse for me.

So I’m asking you. Please. Think about this before you go to work with that cold. Or when you go with your friends to a crowded bar. Buy some gift cards at your local restaurants websites instead – online – and stay home. For my sake, and for the sake of all your loved ones who will be affected by your decisions in the coming days, please.

Take this seriously.

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Katie Blasl
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a reporter, editor and web developer for the LOCAL news websites. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie