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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Surviving COVID-19: Pasco Woman Suspects GI Damage Linked To Virus

Ambyr Lix got a scan of her GI system when she was hospitalized with COVID-19 and said hospital staff deemed everything okay. Three weeks later she got another scan and her doctor found a number of issues.
Ambyr Lix
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

More than 750,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Florida since March. Health News Florida talked to some of the survivors about what it was like to have the illness and how it's changed their lives.

Today we hear from Ambyr Lix, 42, of Land O'Lakes.

She was hospitalized with the virus in early August and has been suffering from problems with her gastrointestinal system ever since.

While there's still too much unknown about COVID-19 to know for sure if it's the cause of her lingering issues, Lix said her doctor suspects it is:

“When I first got the COVID test, it turned out as a negative response, I did not have it, they [the lab] said. Then I got really bad and I had to go to the hospital, and they [hospital staff] had to do a culture test. And after the culture tests they were like, ‘You absolutely have this, I don't know how they missed it before.’

It was very frustrating and it was also very good to finally have an answer. Because up until then you make excuses for everything. Your throat hurts, well, maybe it's because my coffee was too hot yesterday. Your nose is allergies. And so it's awful to know I had it but it was also great that it answered some questions.

So the main things that they [hospital staff] look for is they look at your lungs to make sure there's no ‘popcorning,’ which I'm not positive what that is, but they said I didn't have any popcorning, so that's great.

And they look at your GI system. They look at your, you know, your gallbladder and they look at your spleen and your kidneys and your liver and all that kind of stuff, your pancreas, to make sure that everything looks okay. And mine, at that point, everything looked fine, everything looked okay.

So I was sent home with medication and I was told to take Advil, and then two hours later take Aleve, and then two hours later take Tylenol and just keep doing that.

So I had that scan done on August 6. On August 21, I had already gotten better from COVID, and I had gone to my doctor to follow up. We went over everything and she went through my hospital visit and all that kind of stuff.

And I was having stomach pains, but I just assumed it was because I hadn't been going to the bathroom properly, you know I mean, I've been so sick, I've taken all that medication, it messes your system up a little bit. And I had this bulge on the left side of my body just under my ribs.

So given that information, she wanted me to go in and get a scan done. And the scan was almost exactly the same was the one I got in the hospital.

And I found out that, there's a whole list: my spleen is enlarged. I have gallstones, which were not apparent at the beginning of August. I have a kidney stone, I have development of diverticulosis. There is something wrong with my liver, which we haven't identified quite yet. Again, none of these things were on my scan on the 6 th.

All of those things had swollen my stomach so much it actually ripped it in two places, I have two hernias that I'm actually looking for a surgeon right now to repair.

As far as how it physically is affecting me, I have to wear compression pants for the hernias, because they do hurt quite a bit. But I have to go to a GI specialist, because now all this other stuff is going on, what is it going to do for me, is it going to be forever?

It's really stressful to have to be concerned about these kinds of things. You know, I'm paying thousands of dollars for the COVID stuff that I already did going to the hospital, and I'm looking down the line at all the additional thousands of dollars I'm going to have to spend to get this fixed too, and it's just very, very frustrating.

I'm definitely more conscious of other people now. If people are around me, if people come to my door, things like that, because I know that they're basically walking germ balls. And that bothers me that I feel that way about people because I'm a people person.

Work has started their phase three opening, and they started having people come back in the office. And it absolutely terrifies me that at some point, I'm going to have to go back around people and possibly get this again. Because once you have COVID, you're not guaranteed to not get it again.

A lot of people don't take COVID seriously enough, I think. At the beginning they equate it to the flu.

When you say things like, ‘It's just like the flu,’ or you know, ‘Mortality rate is not that bad,’ you are telling people like me that – I'm going to have to deal with some of this for the rest of my life – you're telling people like me that it's okay, it doesn’t matter.

And I did everything right. I have hand sanitizer in my purse, I wore my mask, and I still got sick. And I'm not mad about that, I mean, you know, I'm not happy about it. But I know that I gave myself a good fighting chance. But there are some people that just don't care. And while they may have it, not be affected, they're definitely passing it on to somebody else. And that's the biggest problem.

If I could give anybody a takeaway from what's happened to me it’s please be more self-conscious about what's going on. Even if it's not a big deal, even if it's just like the flu, is it going to hurt you to wear that little piece of fabric over your mouth? No. Is it going to hurt you to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer? Absolutely not.

It won't hurt you any, but it might save a life. It might save somebody thousands and thousands of dollars plus the sickness and everything else."

This story is produced in partnership with America Amplified, an initiative using community engagement to inform local journalism. It is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.