An islander fell ill — but couldn’t get tested

“We’re all trying to figure this one out.”

For islander Jeanne Dougherty, age 70, it all started on Sunday, March 8, with an unusual feeling of profound fatigue — a sensation, she told The Beachcomber, that she had felt twice during the previous week.

But despite feeling tired, she had spent the day on the grounds of the Seattle Center with her granddaughter and granddaughter’s friend. The trio attended a performance of “Snow White” at Seattle Children’s Theatre.

Dougherty said that during the show, she first had an inkling that she might be running a slight fever. A temperature check, at her daughter’s house after the show, proved her suspicion right.

“After I got home that night, I collapsed into bed,” Dougherty said.

The Beachcomber followed up with Dougherty, an actress who is well-known in Vashon’s theatrical community, after she published an account of her illness — and her inability to get tested for COVID-19 — on Facebook on March 12.

In the post, Dougherty described how she had woken up three hours after going to bed that night, with her fever now registering at 101.7 degrees.

Her first decision, she said, was to tell her 88-year-old husband, Bill Wood, to move to a spare bedroom.

“I determined that Bill and I should be sharing neither bed, bedroom, nor bathroom,” she wrote on Facebook.

After Wood left the room, she went back to sleep for 12 hours and then awoke with a 102-degree fever. Her symptoms, by then, also included a dry cough — another hallmark of COVID-19.

Dougherty spent the next day consulting by phone with her health care providers at Seattle’s Polyclinic, during which she told them she was concerned that she might have the disease.

Their advice, she said, was that she should go to the clinic’s respiratory infectious disease clinic, also located in Seattle, to be assessed by a health care worker who would come to her parked car in the clinic’s parking lot. She was also told that even with her symptoms, she would not be eligible for testing or COVID-19, because she had no known exposure to the disease.

“I was in no condition to drive myself to the clinic,” Dougherty wrote on Facebook. “I didn’t want to have my 88-year old husband, or anyone else, in close proximity to me in a car if there was any chance I had COVID-19. I went back to sleep.”

During the second night of her illness, her fever began to drop. By day three of the illness, it was only slightly elevated.

Dougherty recounted how she kept well away from her husband during the illness and observed a continued self-quarantine for 72 hours, as instructed by her health care providers, of being completely symptom-free before lessening her distance from her husband.

As she recovered, Dougherty tried once more, at the urging of her friends, to seek testing for COVID-19.

“[My friends] were understandably worried about the implications to them and the folks they were in contact with, should I indeed have the virus,” Dougherty wrote on Facebook. “I called the clinic. They put me onto a nurse triage center set up just for COVID-19. As I suspected, I was not sick enough to qualify for testing after my temperature dropped from 102 degrees. The nurse allowed that since most people who contract the disease will have mild symptoms, we will likely never know how many folks are actually infected, or, perhaps, more importantly, are contagious.”

And as of Monday, March 16, Dougherty said she felt she had completely recovered from her illness, feeling well enough to go on three long nature walks on Vashon.

“We’re all trying to figure this one out,” Dougherty wrote on Facebook. “This is just my story — thought I would share it.”

Note: Washington State guidelines now allow testing of symptomatic people who have had no known exposure to the disease, but at the discretion of doctors given the still limited number of testing kits available in Washington. According to the Washington Department of Health, doctors are currently recommended to prioritize testing for patients who are hospitalized with severe lower respiratory illness, those who work in health-care settings, public servants such as firefighters and police officers, and patients who live in institutional settings. For up-to-date Washington state testing guidelines, visit online.

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