CLEVELAND – Renee English, 40, of Youngstown, Ohio, has been living with multiple sclerosis for nearly 20 years.
When she woke up one morning with a pounding headache, she thought it was a side effect from treatment.
“I really thought, ‘oh my gosh,’ something terrible is happening with my MS because I just had my medication,” English said.
The mother of two also developed a fever, sore throat and an ear ache.
“It was like strep on steroids, and I felt at the same time, the ear pain, it just was piercing, it was horrible,” said English.
Her doctor sent her to Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 drive through test site. Soon after, she received a call she’ll never forget.
“She said, well, you’re not feeling well because you did test positive for COVID-19,” said English. “Immediately, I couldn’t speak. I was in tears.”
English’s MS also began to flare with numbness in her face and hands, which doctors say is common when someone with MS has a fever.
“I went over her MS symptoms with her and explained that she was not experiencing an MS relapse, but the coinciding infection with COVID-19 was increasing her MS symptoms,” said Shauna Gales, PA-C, of Cleveland Clinic.
With her fever in a safe range, and no trouble breathing, English was able to recover at home by taking acetaminophen, drinking plenty of fluids and getting lots of rest.
“It was a solid two weeks before I felt like myself again,” English said. “And then I would say it was another whole week after that before I stopped being so incredibly tired.”
English lost her sense of taste and smell, and has lingering numbness in her face and hands, but she wants others to know COVID-19 is beatable.
“I would say to most people – if you’re healthy and active and you get it you’re going to be okay,” she said. “I’m living proof you know? I have MS and I was terrified. My first thought was, ’oh my God, I’m going to be on a ventilator. I’m not going to survive this. I think those of us who survive need to do everyone a service by saying, you know, you can survive.”
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, having MS does not increase someone’s risk of getting COVID-19.
However, if people notice new MS symptoms, or if they are concerned about their risk of COVID-19, they should call their doctor.