Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Ericka Dodge Katz of Brunswick is not included among the nearly 1,000 Mainers who have tested positive for COVID-19, but for more than three weeks she was quarantined with symptoms that left her terrified.

Ericka Dodge Katz: “I had days where I couldn’t fully inhale. I went to sleep at night wondering if my lungs would adequately do their job.” Photo courtesy of Ericka Dodge Katz

“I was the sickest I’ve ever been,” said Katz, who grew up in Biddeford and works as a communications manager for Hannaford.

“I first got a cough on March 23,” she said. “By the end of that week I was not feeling great. I called my doctor at Martin’s Point on March 27 and they went through the screening and they said I was a presumptive-positive. By Monday (March 30) I was at the emergency room at Maine Medical Center because I had trouble breathing.

“At Maine Med they very kindly said they were not going to waste a test when they knew I had it. I was running a fever, I was coughing, I had a hard time getting a full breath. That was Day 1 of isolation. For 15 days I had a fever. Then I was fever-free for two days. Then I got a fever again for eight days.”

Friday was the first day Katz felt well enough to leave her home. She posted on Facebook that the three errands she ran left her feeling exuberant and grateful.

“After more than 26 days in isolation, I’m free,” Katz posted. “I rode in the car, walked on the beach, and bought dog food. On any other day, this would seem mundane. Today, it was the mark of accomplishment.”

She wrote of her illness: “I’ll start by what it’s not. It’s not ‘like the flu.’ It is the scariest health experience in my life. I am a healthy 49-year-old woman with mild, well controlled asthma. I exercise, I eat healthy, I take my vitamins.

“Yet, for more than three weeks, I was the sickest I’ve ever been. I had days where I couldn’t fully inhale. I went to sleep at night wondering if my lungs would adequately do their job. I had soaring blood pressure and then especially low blood pressure. My heart raced like it was going to pound out of my chest. I had a daily meditation practice to remind myself of my body’s strength and ability to heal. I had the good fortune of so many kind, supportive, and relentlessly encouraging friends and family. I am so incredibly thankful, blessed, and downright lucky to have (my husband) Roger — more than 15 feet away, loving and cheering me on. Our dog, Hudson, provided constant companionship throughout those long days and nights.

“And, here I am, on the other side of this virus, and on my way to gaining back my stamina and energy to return to this new COVID world of physical distancing, Zoom, and take-out food.

“Here’s the thing: I’ve seen your posts. It’s boring. It’s hard. You want your life back. If you’re like me, your brows are resembling Frida Kahlo’s. And I’m about to fulfill a teenage dream of growing dreads.

“Buck up, people. This is what we need to do to get through this. The reported numbers are but a fraction of the people who have the virus. Please, please, please, people, wear a face covering when you are in public. It is irresponsible to do anything less. Stay home. It’s not hyperbolic to say that by doing so, you’re saving others from the virus – including yourself.”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at [email protected]

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