Dakota News Now Anchor’s Ongoing Battle With COVID-19 Effects
Months-long journey for Jenna LeMair
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - You may not know that our co-worker and friend here at Dakota News Now, Jenna LeMair, has made it through the hardest parts of a difficult battle with COVID-19. She’s still dealing with the lingering, possibly lifelong effects of the virus.
But, thankfully, she’s doing this with the person she loves right by her side. He’s another familiar face here at Dakota News Now.
“On August 1, that Saturday, I woke up and I had a fever, body aches, cold sweats, everything you feel at first with the flu,” Jenna explains.
Jenna found out she tested positive for COVID-19 just three days later. She doesn’t know where she got it from. She and her boyfriend, 24-year-old Dakota News Now reporter Jacob Cersosimo, who she lives with, had been careful.
“It’s funny because Jacob and I have taken this pandemic seriously from the beginning for a multitude of reasons. Obviously, with work, we know that we interview a lot of people and the last thing we want is to ever be the person who spreads it. So, we stopped eating out at restaurants, stopped going shopping, stopped going out and socializing with friends, done. The concern for that mainly was because Jacob has asthma, so we were thinking that ‘Okay we need to keep him safe, this is the last thing we need,’ I didn’t know I’d be the one we’d have to worry about.”
She tracked her symptoms.
“Just a headache and a cough to severe chest pains within five days.”
What would end up being the lingering effects began to take hold.
“And that has been by far, the worst symptom that I’ve had so far is the chest pain and the pressure, but I guess it’s just the virus, the way it attacks certain people’s lungs and the insides of my chest,” Jenna says.
Even after she was no longer contagious, there was still an uphill battle caused by COVID and doctors didn’t know what was wrong.
“It’s frustrating, it’s scary, there’s a lot of tears, like on our way back from ER visits. Because it was hopeless.”
All Jenna knew was that she had gone from being a healthy 23-year-old with no pre-existing conditions to being unable to work or do the things she normally does like exercise because of chest and lung pain and breathing problems that sent her to three different ERs.
“It felt like someone was just crushing onto my chest.”
Around mid-September, after being diagnosed with pleurisy and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and continued use of her inhaler, she tried to go back to work.
“I think the mistake was going back full time.”
Less than a month later, it all came to a screeching halt again.
“I thought I was doing better and then I relapsed with all of the lung pain and the chest pain. And then it got worse.”
This was the breaking point. Jenna was desperate for answers. Answers she’d finally get after a stroke of good luck getting to see an Avera pulmonologist in November.
“He found that my lungs were functioning at just above 50%, so, I had been trying to work full-time and keep up with a normal life with my lungs working at about 50%,” Jenna explains. “Basically, what COVID had done to my insides was severe inflammation with my airways and my lungs. And the reason why all of the tests from the previous ER visits showed up normal is because I’d get enough air in, but it’s so swollen and inflamed with my airways that it wasn’t getting out. So, that’s why when I’d have my coughing attacks or I couldn’t breathe or catch my breath, that’s what that was from. And that’s what the pressure was from was not being able to get air out. And that inflammation is so severe that it was causing basically tears in the lining and the muscle within my chest and so that’s where all the sharp pains were coming from,” she adds.
Weeks later, things actually started to get better thanks to her prescriptions. She’s getting in a little bit of exercise. And since around the start of December, she has been easing back into work just two days a week. For Jenna, the most difficult part of all of this has actually been the concerns of those closest to her.
“Though it’s been so much physical pain, seeing my parents that concerned and that scared, because my brother died two years ago of an undiagnosed heart defect and so my family knows what it feels like to lose someone. And to see my parents concerned and considering the thought of ‘what if we lose her, too?’ that was by far the hardest part of all of this is seeing your family concerned. And that goes with Jacob, too, seeing him scared,” Jenna says, holding back tears.
Throughout this journey, Jacob has been her primary caretaker. She has even needed him to help her get out of bed and walk to the bathroom or the kitchen. Amazingly, back when Jenna was contagious, Jacob never got COVID-19.
“And I believe the masks, the hand sanitizer, the disinfectant wipes and the fact that we were never within six feet for more than a minute of each other is the sole reason I didn’t get the virus,” Jacob says.
And there were other wins along the way.
“It’s such a marathon and we realized that very early. And so we tried not to get too high or too low. We would get too high when she’d walk to the stop sign and we’d be like ‘Yes! We did it!’ but, then we’d have to realize that we’d have to rest again,” Jacob says, smiling.
She still has so many questions, like why this happened to someone with no pre-existing conditions and what does it mean for her future? Her doctor says she may have permanent lung damage. Will she ever be back to her normal self, the way she was before getting COVID?
“My goal is to hopefully, realistically, after having one relapse, and realizing I do too much, realistically back to normal health by next August, so one year after contracting the virus. And that would be huge for me, if I was able to work out without feeling like I’m going to pass out, or coughing or getting chest pain and being out for two days after that.”
One thing is certain, Jenna’s spirit isn’t broken.
Jacob says, “For her to have two bad years in a three-year span and still have a smile on her face every day and still have a positive attitude and still be able to work at this relationship and work at her job and work at everything else, really shows a lot about her character.”
Jenna hopes that people who see her story will do whatever they can to protect themselves and their families from catching the virus.
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