Stephanie’s Battle with COVID-19

October 13, 2020

Typically, we photograph every patient appearing in HealthU. Because this story was planned during the surge of COVID-19, that contact would have been too risky. Instead, our team took a creative approach and replaced photo shoots with illustrated portraits of patients.

By Danielle Schipani

For Stephanie Deprima, the beginning of March was just like any other early spring. As the supervising school aid of an elementary school in Staten Island, her days were pretty routine. She would go to the same school that she’s worked at for the last 20 years and keep the children safe as they enjoyed the playground. Her 60th birthday was around the corner, and so was her long-awaited trip to Italy.

Symptoms Begin

Soon this sense of normalcy would come to a halting stop, when stores and establishments around the country began to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “March 28 was the first day I had a fever. First it was 99, then 101.5, and the next day it spiked to 103. This fever lasted for 10 days straight,” says Stephanie.

The first thing she did when her fever spiked was call her primary care physician in Staten Island, who instructed her to take over-the-counter medication and to go to the hospital if her symptoms worsened. Unsatisfied with this response, she turned to Hackensack Meridian Medical Group – Primary Care in Jackson, where her sister has worked for many years. She was immediately able to have a telehealth visit with John Gumina, M.D., who gave her guidance on the next steps she should take.

Getting Tested for COVID-19

It was through this telehealth visit that she learned her symptoms qualified her for a COVID-19 test. Despite being over an hour away, Stephanie drove down to Hackensack Meridian Health Village at Jackson, where they had a drive-thru testing site and she was able to quickly get tested. “I was blown away by just how amazing and coordinated the experience was. I felt safe the entire time, everyone was wearing the appropriate protective equipment, and I felt welcomed by the staff. I was tested for both COVID-19 and for the flu, and it only took a few minutes,” Stephanie explained.

“We have been able to keep 99% of our patients under home treatment. We call them frequently and make sure they are checking their pulse ox and temperature. They are told if things change to notify us immediately,” said Dr. Gumina.

Recovery at Home

When she arrived home the practice had already called in her prescription. Her test results were available within 24 hours, and she had tested positive for COVID-19. Stephanie immediately quarantined in her bedroom to keep her husband safe from contracting the virus. She remained in her bedroom for almost 30 days, even spending her 60th birthday alone in quarantine. During this time, she experienced a number of common COVID-19 symptoms including difficulty breathing and dry cough. She also experienced rashes, kidney pain, dry skin and hair loss, though these are not widely reported symptoms of COVID-19. Throughout her journey to defeat the virus, Dr. Gumina and his staff frequently checked in on Stephanie to assess her progress. She had two additional telehealth visits where she consulted Dr. Gumina on the latest news regarding the virus, and best practices to treat it. “From when I first called I could immediately tell just how just genuine he was, and with every question, the practice called me back within an hour with a response,” Stephanie explains.

“With the gravity of this crisis patients should not have to wait for responses to their questions or concerns. Our incredible care team helps to monitor the patient portal for questions and results 24/7,” said Dr. Gumina.

Now, despite the distance, Stephanie is proud to call this practice her home, and has decided that she will come to Hackensack Meridian Medical Group in Jackson for all her future health care needs. After 6-weeks of battling the virus she was retested and tested negative for COVID-19. She has since been tested for the antibodies and is awaiting results so she can potentially take part in plasma donation. “Dr. Gumina’s office went above and beyond to make sure I recovered from the virus. From the telehealth visits, to quick and easy drive-thru testing, and finally coming to the office in person, I felt comfortable and cared for every step of the way,” says Stephanie.

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