Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

“I was really sick, but not my normal sick,” Joyce Baughan says of her experience in January. Photo courtesy of Joyce Baughan

Joyce Baughan has dealt with health issues, but this was different.

“I was really sick, but not my normal sick,” said Baughan, 62, of Cumberland.

“It was the last week of January 2020. I began to get quite ill with fever, pain in the upper right chest and body aches. Having been hospitalized for bacterial pneumonia a few years prior … it was very much like that. It was troubling.”

There was no talk of COVID-19 in January, at least not of it being in Maine. Baughan said she went back and forth on the phone with her doctor’s office. One thought was a urinary tract infection, which she had experienced before. Baughan knew it was more than that.

“This moved on to something else, something bigger. I was running a fever, 102.4 at the peak. It stayed around 101.6 to 102 for three days. By the time the doctor saw me, there was no question I was sick.

“I was given a thorough exam, including a chest X-ray and a rapid flu test that came back negative for influenza A & B.  But something was going on. I was sent home with a prescription to help prevent pneumonia. I recovered and thought little more about it, for a while.”

Baughan also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and has been on oxygen for the past eight years. She often uses medical masks, which used to be easily attainable.

“In mid-February, I started having problems getting my usual annual supply of vinyl gloves and masks that I need to prevent problems with my COPD. That made me sit up and take notice of what was going on with the novel coronavirus.

“Then the pandemic hit and, as more and more information came out about the symptoms, I began to question my earlier illness … I’m pretty sure I had it …  I reached out to my (primary care physician) and asked if there was any way to tell after the fact. My PCP said there was currently no (antibody test) available, but yes, my illness was probably caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Since then, I have compared symptoms with a couple of my siblings, who live near me, and we have all had very similar experiences.”

Baughan lives in the house she grew up in, in west Cumberland. Her father, Robert Maloney, divided up the property. Maloney, 90, lives in a house nearby. Four siblings also live in Cumberland, and two more live an hour away.

One tradition that the pandemic has affected is a weekly gathering for Saturday morning coffee.

“Now it’s just my dad and two sisters,” Baughan said.

Baughan does not get out much these days – “my husband has always done the shopping” – although she would like to go back to her volunteer work at the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals in Windham.

“I began by mucking stalls two days a week. Over time, I had taken on many other seasonal chores, such as weekly grounds mowing, weed whacking, flower gardening, bush trimming, wheelbarrow repair, donation jar collections, etc.  Since the executive order for ‘Stay at Home’ was issued, the facility (is closed) to all visitors and volunteers.  I have noticed a definite loss of strength and really miss feeling useful.”

For other reasons, Baughan hopes to get to Windham, where her son and his wife live, sometime next month.

“They are expecting their first child in the beginning of June,” she said. “My first grandchild.”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at [email protected]

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