Cape Girardeau woman hospitalized for week with COVID-19 will get vaccine when available

Heather Sieberg still has lingering effects from the virus which she contracted more than three months ago
Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 9:35 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - It’s been more than three months and Heather Sieberg is still not feeling completely normal.

“I can’t get this again, if it was even remotely like the first time,” said Heather Sieberg. “No way. I might not be so lucky the next time.”

That’s what Sieberg told her nurse practitioner as she went to Saint Francis Cape Primary Care for her three month checkup, following a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“My taste is still off, and my smell is still weird,” Sieberg told the nurse. “Also, I have chest pains, which sort of freaks me out.”

Shortness of breath is also still a problem.

“I can definitely do a lot more than I did,” said Sieberg. “But, I couldn’t do an all day shopping trip, or an all day at Disneyland. There’s no way.”

Sieberg said she has been working at home since before the pandemic began.

She said she wears a mask everywhere she goes, and has been super careful about social distancing.

In August she locked her keys and her cell phone in her car.

“I used a public phone at a gas station,” said Sieberg. “That’s what I’ve narrowed it down to.”

She can’t be 100 percent sure, but believes that may be where she contracted the virus.

Her family kept telling her that even if she got the virus, she would likely be fine because she is young.

“I’m 43, and I don’t have any underlying health conditions that I am aware of,” said Sieberg.

The symptoms started to come on quickly, starting with severe body aches.

“It was actually so severe I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something I’d eaten,” said Sieberg.

At first she didn’t think it was COVID-19, until the other symptoms started to develop.

“The most tell-tale thing that I thought was the most alarming at that point, it’s about a 50 foot walk from my bedroom to the living room,” said Sieberg. “I was exhausted. I felt like I had run a race. I had to sit down immediately. I didn’t even have the energy to open a can of soup.”

After about a week of feeling awful she went to the emergency room.

They sent her home, but said to monitor her oxygen levels closely.

“My co-workers had sent me a care package and it had a pulse oximeter in it,” said Sieberg. “I checked my oxygen before I went to bed that night using the pulse ox, and it was 82 percent. So, in 24 hours it went from 97 percent to 82 percent.”

She said when she would inhale, it felt like she was breathing in razor blades.

“I was taking a shower, and I frankly had choked on the steam in the shower,” said Sieberg. “That was a really scary moment.”

That’s when she had her son drive her to the hospital, where she was admitted.

“I’d made up my mind, I didn’t want to die,” said Sieberg.

Afraid she would end up on a ventilator, Heather prayed the treatment, Remdesivir would help.

“I was blessed that I responded to the treatment, because unfortunately not everybody does.”

After a week in the COVID unit at Saint Francis in Cape Girardeau, she got to go home.

Not everyone has been so fortunate.

Heather Sieberg said her kindergarten teacher recently died from COVID complications.

As she mourns that loss, she hopes to share her own story to warn others about how serious this virus can be.

“It really blows my mind that people disregard the masks, and laugh it off because it’s not something to laugh about,” said Sieberg.

What doesn’t make sense to a lot of people is how one person can have a few symptoms and be fine.

Then you have someone like Sieberg, for example, who was very sick and had to be hospitalized.

Then, you have those who get the virus and die.

“I think since people are having different experiences, it lends itself to the conspiracy theory that this is somehow all a fraud,” said Sieberg.

Those on the frontlines of this pandemic will tell you this is definitely not a joke.

Everyone is different, and there is still so much that is unknown.

“No case is the same,” said Kimberly Keser, Nurse Practitioner at Cape Primary Care.” We learn as we go. Just comparing ourselves to now and March when COVID 19 first started, I feel like I know so much more, but there’s much more to learn.”

Heather Sieberg doesn’t want to ever again get as sick as she was back in August.

She is ready and willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s her turn to receive one.

She also hopes others will continue to do their part to slow the spread of the virus.

“If you think COVID is not real, think about losing the most important person in your life, and if that’s something you can live with...then have at it don’t wear a mask,” said Sieberg. “But, if that gives you pause as it would most of us, then may be now is the time to listen.”

Sieberg would like to thank those who cared for her during her time at the Saint Francis Healthcare System.

She said the men and women working the COVID unit are heroes and deserve to be recognized for their countless hours of work during this pandemic.

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