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Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got COVID

Five accounts of COVID-19 survivors.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Over one million lives in the U.S. have been lost to COVID-19, and for some survivors, there are regrets. "Conflicting messages from the federal and various state and local governments haven't helped. Because some leaders have suggested that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu, millions of Americans did not wear masks. By some estimates, not wearing masks could have contributed to 130,000 deaths," say David Chesire, Associate Professor, College of Medicine, University of Florida, and Mark S. McIntosh, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Florida. Here are the experiences of five COVID-19 survivors, and what they learned from their experience. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Never Ignore Unexplained Symptoms


College basketball coach Chris Kielsmeier, 44, experienced severe fatigue that he wrote off as work stress. "I was fatigued, just like every basketball coach in the country is in March, but I really didn't think anything about being sick," Kielsmeier says. "At the time, I contributed it to losing a game and the season almost being done. Looking back on it now, I knew that it was starting to hit me that day because I really wasn't myself. And the next night, I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst aches, chills and pains that I'd ever experienced in my life."


Get Vaccinated

Woman wearing face mask looking at camera showing thumbs up after getting the covid-19 vaccine.

Tommy Daniels, 63, has lung disease and says the COVID-19 vaccine saved his life. "It was the vaccine," Daniels says. "It did its job. Without it, I probably would have died."

"Tommy is a shining example of someone who has tried to take care of himself and his community," says pulmonologist Rachel Taliercio, DO. "Existing lung damage due to COPD means those individuals are more likely to experience severe complications from COVID-19. We know overall effectiveness of the vaccine has led to fewer hospitalizations among people who are vaccinated."


Don't Ignore Underlying Conditions

Nurse with face mask sitting at home with senior woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.

Sarah Keil, 43, is warning people with underlying conditions to get vaccinated. Keil has MS, and ended up with a severe case of COVID-19 in June 2021. "I didn't get vaccinated because I was worried about what kind of neurological side effects I could get because of my MS," Keil explains. "I wanted to research more into the shot before getting it. I have a lot of regret, not only for myself but for everything I put my family through."


Never Delay Important Procedures


Months after undergoing open-heart surgery, Victor Young, 64, believes the operation helped him survive COVID-19—and his surgeon agrees. "I have a theory. I actually think the heart surgery saved me," says Young. "It's the only reason I made it through COVID."

"If Victor had gotten COVID without having his heart issues addressed, he might not have recovered," says Eric Roselli, MD. "Even though the way COVID affected him was primarily a pulmonary issue, I don't think — with the shape his heart was in before his surgery – he would have been able to tolerate it."


Trust the Medical Professionals

Portrait of mixed race male doctor wearing face mask standing in hospital corridor.

"It's easy to give up. It's easy to lay in bed under the covers and not let the world in around you," says long COVID survivor Joe Nero, 58. "But God has given us gifts, including the gift of being alive. So, trust in the nurses, our unsung heroes. Trust in the doctors. They know what they're doing, and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can overcome! Life is only as good as we make it. I would encourage anyone who is struggling to recover to stop sitting, get up and try walking. If you sit all day in a wheelchair, you'll just waste away. First, walk two steps, then 20 and then walk for 20 minutes. It takes motivation and determination."


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan