Despite precautions, woman contracts virus

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Shelly Jones poses for a portrait at her home in Huntingburg on Wednesday. She tested positive for COVID-19 in early July.


HUNTINGBURG — It hit like a lead balloon.

On the evening of July 6, Shelly Jones of Huntingburg was relaxing in her home after a day at work when she suddenly gasped for air. The 50-year-old tried to speak to tell her husband, Lonnie, and daughter, Courtney, what was happening, but the words wouldn’t come out. When the gasping fit passed, Courtney suggested her mom go to the urgent care center for a COVID-19 test. A few days later, the test came back positive.

“That really scared me when I couldn’t breathe,” Shelly said. “That’s the worst part — the shortness of breath. And the fatigue.”

Her positive result came as a surprise. The week of July 6 was Shelly’s first week back at work after a foot surgery six weeks prior. Following the surgery, Shelly sat at home recovering, only leaving her house for doctor’s appointments. The few times she did leave, Shelly took every precaution. As a cancer survivor with several underlying conditions that put her at heightened risk for COVID-19, she wasn’t taking any chances. She made sure to wear a mask outside her home before Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a mask mandate, and she maintained social distancing.

“I thought, ‘I am not going to take a risk because I have underlying conditions,’” she said.

Still, she caught the virus.

After Shelly received the positive test result, she found herself asking God why. The last year had been tough enough. Her sister had been diagnosed with cancer, and her brother and mother both passed away. Now, she had COVID-19. As she prayed, she arrived at the same conclusion she had six years ago when battling cancer: God would only give her as much as she could handle. She knew she’d get through COVID-19.

Even with the solace her faith offered, Shelly’s battle with COVID-19 was difficult. Although she never had another bout of gasping for air like on the first night, the next three weeks were miserable and scary. Shelly had every COVID-19 symptom except a fever. She could hardly walk around her home without feeling breathless, she had a headache that wouldn’t ease, and flu-like symptoms kept her from eating. She made sure to get enough fluids, but other than that, she had no appetite. Mostly, she slept.

“That’s all you wanted to do,” she said.

When she wasn’t sleeping, she checked in with her doctor and the Dubois County Health Department.

After 14 days, the symptoms began to ease, and she thought she was on the mend. But a few days later, the symptoms came back. The ebb and return of her symptoms went on for a few days before the symptoms finally eased permanently. Although Shelly still has a dry cough, her chest has cleared and she has returned to work. By the end of the work day, however, she’s exhausted.

“That’s going to take some time to go away,” she said of the fatigue. “Probably a lot of time.”

Shelly still has no idea where she caught the virus. She wasn’t around anyone who showed symptoms, and both Lonnie and Courtney tested negative for the virus. Her best guess is that someone near her was an asymptomatic carrier.

As Shelly has returned to work, she’s been glad to see people wearing facial coverings. She encourages everyone to wear one in public and to maintain social distancing. She also wants the community to understand that the virus isn’t a joke.

“This virus is real,” she said. “It’s not a hoax.”

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