SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – The fear of getting COVID-19 and battling the novel virus compounding with two lung conditions became a reality for Tracy Vance last Friday.
Vance, who has COPD and severe asthma, was told by her doctor she would face a higher risk of death if she contracted coronavirus. That fear lead her to WATE 6 On Your Side in June, when she made a plea to people living in and visiting, Sevier County to wear a face covering.
Vance is sharing her experience, again, in the hopes of inspiring change in people who refuse to follow the face-covering requirement in Sevier County. Since that story, the county has seen more than 1,100 new cases of COVID-19, Vance among them.
She was admitted to the hospital, hours after testing positive. “I’m absolutely terrified,” she said Friday night.
Her symptoms included tightness in her chest, headache, shaking, cold chills, and something she described as “smothering.” That latter symptom is one she’s most concerned with and has seen throughout her five day battle. She described it, Saturday, as when “your oxygen is doing good but you still feel like you’ve got a rhinoceros, or elephant, or both, sitting on your chest. It’s a very strange feeling.”
She doesn’t know where she contracted the virus. Vance said she left the house for food and medicine, no more than twice a week, throughout the pandemic. Her children have jobs interacting with the public and await test results.
While she isn’t pointing a finger to a specific place, she did point to an overall lack of public participation with face coverings. “Before I got hospitalized, I was even yelled at for wearing a mask and drinking the kool-aid. I still hope the person that said that to me doesn’t have to go through this,” she said. “I don’t even wish this on the devil. I really wouldn’t. I’m terrified because I don’t know what symptoms are normal, which aren’t because nobody knows.”
After two and a half days in the hospital, Tracy went home Sunday.
Wednesday, she felt her condition is worsening. “I feel like I can’t breathe. It feels like there is a herd of elephants sitting on my chest,” she said. In addition to her long list of symptoms, she’s now experiencing dizziness if she stands too long. Tasks as simple as going to the bathroom require her to pace herself and to stop and catch her breath.
She’s also experiencing a growing fear that her condition will get much worse. “It’s on my mind most of the time. Being put on a ventilator isn’t the scary part for me. The scary part to me is what it’s going to do to my daughter and my grandkids.”
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters extended the county face-covering requirement through August 29.
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