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Alpena woman describes experience with COVID-19 test

Courtesy Photo Alpena’s Amy Gagnon, seen in this recent photo she provided to The News, tested negative for COVID-19 earlier this month after becoming seriously ill with influenza A.

ALPENA – To many Americans, the thought of unintentionally exposing friends or family to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, takes an emotional toll and is an eye-opener about the seriousness of the pandemic and the need to heed government orders to prevent further spread.

In Alpena, Amy Gagnon had an all-too-close encounter with that experience, living through days of anguish as she awaited test results to find out if she had the disease.

Fortunately, she tested negative, but the lessons she learned during her time in the hospital and at home recuperating from what turned out to be a serious bout of the flu are ones she wants to share with others. She hopes to encourage others to take the appropriate measures to limit the spread of the respiratory sickness that has caused more than 700 deaths in the U.S., including 43 deaths in Michigan.

As of Wednesday, there remained no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency, or Alcona counties.

On March 10, the same day Michigan confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, Gagnon, 46, fell ill with a cough, high fever, and shortness of breath, some of the very symptoms of COVID-19 the media had been describing for days and days.

A day later, her condition worsened, and she was taken to MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena via ambulance. While there, she was tested several times for influenza A and influenza B, as well as for strep throat. Doctors then tested her for COVID-19.

While waiting for those results, Gagnon experienced a rollercoaster of emotions while battling a still-unknown illness.

“It’s the not knowing that is the most terrifying,” Gagnon said. “It all happened very quickly, but I got lucky. My family got lucky.”

While at the hospital, she underwent a battery of tests, all of which needed to come back negative before a COVID-19 test was granted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the local health department. During that time, she was admitted to the hospital, in isolation, but was discharged after only 24 hours and sent home to self-quarantine while she waited for the test results to be returned.

During that time, Gagnon said, she did a great amount of soul-searching, reflecting, and worrying.

“I began to think that I could have spread it to my husband and two children, my grandchild, my parents and friends,” she said. “It was torture, waiting to find out what was going on. I thought about how many people I was around and how many people they were around and how it could all snowball out of control. It was unnerving.”

The results eventually came back negative for COVID-19 and confirmed the flu.

Gagnon said she is still recovering from the flu and maintaining her distance from others, for the most part. She said she has been sleeping a lot and reading to pass the time. She said cleaning and disinfecting her home have also become more routine because the threat of COVID-19 is still high, especially for her, because she is still in recovery.

Gagnon said that, through the ordeal, she learned to appreciate what she has and those she loves. She said her family, friends, doctors, and nurses helped her overcome her health challenges.

Now, she said, it is time for others to do their best to avoid the coronavirus and other contagious illnesses.

“The first thing is people need to stop blaming the media and listen to what it is trying to tell you,” she said. “People need to stop thinking this is overhyped and made up. They need to stop downplaying it and do what our health experts are telling us. COVID-19 doesn’t care about your age, sex, or political preference. We are all at risk.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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