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Surviving COVID-19: Sarasota Senior 'Furious' With Trump, DeSantis For Virus Response

Mary Ann Shea says she is a "long hauler," meaning she is still suffering from COVID-19 symptoms long after she no longer was sick with the virus.
Mary Ann Shea
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 Mary Ann Shea, 73, of Sarasota.

She tested positive in July and suspects she got it after a person coughed near her while not wearing a mask. She and her sister were dining outside at a restaurant and both of them got sick, but their families did not.

Shea said that was her first time eating out since the shutdowns began and that she was otherwise very careful about safety precautions.

“You know, when I came down with it [COVID-19], I was furious.

"And whether or not I should be or shouldn't be, I was furious with (Florida Gov.) DeSantis, and with (President Donald) Trump, and with the administration, since they knew so far in advance about this, and they downplayed it. And they kind of scoffed at mask-wearing, Trump did, and DeSantis refused to have a statewide mandate. And I felt that if they had, I wouldn't have gotten this.

"And as a result of getting this, I had headaches every single day, terrible pains in my limbs. The exhaustion was beyond imaginable. I remember saying to my wife, ‘I feel like I've been hit by a truck.’

"It was scary. It was frightening because I didn't know, and I am 73, and I thought, well, you know, if this gets any worse, I do need to be hospitalized.

"As a survivor, I felt very grateful that I survived it, you know, and I am very grateful that I survived it and that my case wasn't as severe as you know, of course, those poor people that lost their lives.

"I still am a ‘long hauler’ apparently, I still have side effects — and not as bad as they were. I mean, I was, when I was in the throes of it, very short of breath and couldn't do anything, you know, for over a month. Now I can walk the dog.

"But I still wake up sometimes during the night with breathtaking pains in my limbs. And the exhaustion is still sometimes paralyzing. Like today, I was supposed to go for my mammogram and my bone scan, and I had to reschedule it, because you don't know when it's going to hit you. And it did. It just hit me. And I was too exhausted to drive.

"I've been back to my doctor. And she had said, ‘You're going to just have to listen to your body.’

"They don't know that much about this virus, unfortunately; I wish they did, to be able to help us more with it. Of course, if I was the president, I'm sure there would be some drug or antidote for me, but I being just a regular citizen on Social Security, there isn’t, and that’s an issue.

"It made me very angry at the dichotomy between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy.

"I felt some compassion for Trump when he got COVID. I thought, well, that's terrible. Because I had it, I don't want anybody to get this disease, it’s awful.

"But then when he turned around and said (paraphrasing him), ‘Oh, this is basically nothing. Don't let this dominate your life’ — when I heard him saying that, so much anger rose up in me that I didn't even know was there. I was furious.

"How could he say that, No. 1, to all those loved ones of the people that died? But also to us that are still having side effects. Those of us who have survived and have dealt with this and it was awful. How can you possibly say to us, ‘Oh, don't let this dominate your life?”

"I mean, it was so insensitive because he has access to all these drugs. I just took Advil. That's what was available to me. That's what I was told by my doctor was available to me.

"So that's infuriating to me, you know, and I think much more has to be done for survivors.”

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.