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Surviving COVID-19: Tampa Woman Recovers From Virus With New Lease On Life

Roberta Shelor said she had a negative experience with the local health care system when trying to treat her COVID-19 symptoms. She credits her primary care physician as the only one who helped her get better.
Stephanie Colombini
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 Roberta Shelor of Tampa.

She's a flight attendant and suspects she got the virus on a trip in July. Her employer informed her that a passenger on the flight tested positive and Shelor remembers having problems with one who refused to wear a mask. Her coworker also got sick but her family didn't.

Shelor shares her experience riding out COVID-19 at home:

“Imagine being in a dark room for two weeks, nobody coming near you, you feel like a pariah. And just getting worse with each passing day and thinking to yourself, ‘Am I going to die?’

I mean, you really feel like, it's happening to people, why would it not happen to me?

I was, you know, thinking about my children and planning funerals. And I’m thinking, ‘What do I need to tell them? Where's my will?’ All of these things kept going through my head.

My poor mother, at 83 years old, who lives in St. Petersburg, was driving over every day over the Howard Frankland bridge to drop food on my doorstep. And it was driving her crazy.

It was very emotional, to know how worried she was about me, and that she couldn't see me or spend time with me or help me, she just is one of those people that likes to help. It just meant a lot to me that she would make that drive every day.

I actually got really nervous, maybe eight days into it, because I was getting progressively worse. And so I did a teleconference with a doctor who told me I needed to go to the emergency room.

I got in my car, and it took everything I had to do that, I had no strength at all, and I went to a hospital. And they flat out told me they would not admit me, because I wasn't having respiratory issues.

But I did go to an urgent care and it was a terrible experience. Talk about feeling like a pariah. The doctor wouldn't even come in the examination room with me. He held the door open with his foot, and he held his head to the side so that he wasn't looking at me directly. And the first thing he said to me is, ‘What's your problem?’ Needless to say, I was extremely upset about that.

So I didn't feel like I was really getting good health care. So I ended up having another teleconference with my primary care physician, and he's the one that got the ball rolling on helping me get well.

I took so many medications, I'm not even sure I can tell you what I was on. Steroids, antibiotics, I was on two different types of narcotics for the head pain. And I don't even take anything in my personal life. I never use any kind of drugs.

I think that being sick can be a huge wake-up call for your life. I definitely feel like, while I've had this amazing life, actually, there's a lot more to be had. And I plan to pursue that to the fullest extent, absolutely chase the bucket list.

I don't feel comforted by the theory of antibodies at all. Because I do believe that people have contracted the virus twice. I actually treat the virus as something I've never had before. I don't want to get lazy about being safe. So I do treat it as though I've never had it and that I'm susceptible to it.

I wish people would think more on a level of community. We've lost that art of just taking care of one another. And I just wish you would put the damn mask on. Put it on, just put it on.”

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.