(Editor’s Note: A married couple residing in the borough and recovering from COVID-19 recently shared their story with TAPinto South Plainfield. Their names have been changed in this article out of respect for their privacy.)

SOUTH PLAINFIELD NJ – While the uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be debated among medical experts and politicians, one thing everyone seems to agree on at this time is that the symptoms and severity associated with the coronavirus undoubtedly present themselves differently in different people. 

For some, the virus is apparent in the form of a fever, cough that lingers for weeks, and chest pains, while others experience milder symptoms such as loss of taste and headaches over just a few days. Such was the case for Sam and Amy Smith*, a South Plainfield couple who, over the past month, have been fighting back against the coronavirus amid very different symptoms. 

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A manager for a Somerset County supermarket, 62-year-old Sam told TAPinto that he began wearing a mask to work in March ‘just to be on the safe side.’ At that time, occupancy limits, six-foot distancing, and face covering were not yet mandated as shoppers, already in a panic, ‘swarmed the store’ to stock up. 

“Over the first couple of weeks, there wasn’t any thought of six-foot distancing or mandatory masks, but I was already wearing one and, ironically, I still got it,” he said. “I wasn’t in direct contact with anyone that has it, that I know of, other than work. Those first couple of weeks, everyone was in a panic and there were people swarming all over and around you. There wasn’t any thought of the six-foot distancing or mask wearing. 

Sam said he came home from work feeling tired on March 24 and, initially, thought he was just run down from working excessive hours. His sister, a nurse, suggested he take his temperature and it came back at 99.1. The following day, he began to experience headaches, was still tired, and a temperature check read 100.7. 

“I felt washed out, not myself and the headache was different, not like with the flu,” he said, adding that a call to his primary care physician got him an appointment to be tested for COVID-19 and, the results, received on March 30, confirmed he was positive. “I had a fever for 10 days straight, the highest being 102, a tightness in my chest, and a horrible cough. I was pretty much bedridden for the first week-plus.”

A few days after receiving his first positive diagnosis, Amy, Sam’s 63-year-old wife, also began to feel sick; although she never had a cough and her temperature did not exceed 99.9 for more than one day, Amy experienced intense headaches along with a loss of appetite, an altered sense of smell, severe backaches, stomach cramps in the lower torso, and said that, at times, her skin felt like it was on fire. 

“I wasn’t bedridden like [Sam] but I was very tired and fatigued and the stomach cramps were awful and disconcerting. It’s so bizarre, the different symptoms out there are all over the place.”

While Amy said she ‘feels fine’ and is no longer experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, Sam, who has no underlying health conditions, is still on the road to recovery. “I still do not feel like myself; there are good days and bad days. Any kind of physical activity wears me out quickly and the tightness in my chest is still there,” he said. 

Having more ‘bad days than good days’ a month after his initial diagnosis and initially scheduled to return to work April 24, Sam got retested. The results of his April 22 blood work confirmed he was still positive for COVID-19.

“I thought I was being a hypochondriac because I wasn’t getting better. I was starting to feel foolish because of all these reports out there of people going back to work after a couple of weeks and here I wasn’t feeling better,” Sam said, adding, “I was actually relieved when I found out I was still positive because now at least I know there is a reason behind it.”

As of press time, Sam is scheduled to return to his managerial position at the supermarket on May 11 provided an additional recheck comes back negative and hopes to donate plasma to help others suffering from the coronavirus. Although he is eager for life to get back to normal, normalcy now, said the Smiths, comes with concerns. 

“There is still no definitive answer as to whether or not we build up antibodies or how strong or how long these antibodies last if you have them. No one has said ‘oh you won’t get it again;’ they are theorizing that but no one is 100-percent sure and every day things seem to be changing,” Sam said, adding that ‘there are still too many unknowns [and] still no real, clear, concrete answers…

“That’s the biggest fear and I think that is what scares people the most. There have been over 59,000 deaths [as of press time] in the country associated with [COVID-19] and that number is like a red light blinking in everyone’s face,” he said.

“Everything is a guess; look at how many 30-, 40-, 50-year olds with no underlining medical problems are dying,” said Amy. “That’s the fear more than anything. This whole thing is just very scary.”

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