Mild Symptoms, Major Impact: How Getting COVID-19 Changed One Student’s Perspective

Kelsey Bayles has fully recovered from COVID-19.
Credit: Kelsey Bayles

APS member Anberitha Matthews, PhD, recently spoke to Kelsey Bayles, a senior in the bachelor of science in nursing program at the Mississippi University for Women, who became infected with the coronavirus in the summer of 2020. APS thanks Bayles for giving us permission to share her story.

Since late 2019, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has affected the way most people think and interact as public health concerns mount. Most people who show signs of COVID-19 have mild symptoms such as a cough, fever or muscle soreness. Some people become infected with the virus but have no symptoms at all. In severe cases, later stages of the disease can cause the immune system to overwork, causing a “cytokine storm” that may lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiple-organ failure. This can result in long-lasting health effects or even death in some people.

One of my students, Kelsey Bayles, was diagnosed with COVID-19 after returning home from a trip to Florida last summer. The first sign was a headache, followed by a loss of taste and smell for a few days and chest pain. She was lucky—her symptoms were minimal. Bayles completed the recommended quarantine with her parents who, fortunately, did not test positive for COVID-19 and never displayed any symptoms.

“My biggest symptom was fatigue,” Bayles said. She didn’t have issues with breathing, but she felt very winded when walking up and down stairs. However, she felt better when she moved around a little and actually felt more tired when she sat too long or stayed in bed. Since COVID-19 affects the respiratory system, it is not surprising that Bayles described bouts of fatigue when she sat still or lay in bed because these are times when breathing is shallow. We breathe more deeply when we are active.

Our bodies are amazing machines, equipped with everything needed to keep functioning in healthy conditions. However, with COVID-19, the system often works against itself. Bayles’s story shows that even mild cases of COVID-19 in young people—Bayles is 21—can have a lasting effect. Even after her respiratory symptoms went away, Bayles found she still got more tired than she used to.

In addition to the physical effects of the coronavirus, having COVID-19 changed Bayles’s attitude toward staying safe in a pandemic. Before getting sick, she was not a regular mask wearer, but now she wears a mask and uses sanitizer when she goes out. She often took part in family-style dining with larger communal plates, but now prefers her own plate and beverage rather than sharing. By early November, Bayles considered herself fully recovered from COVID-19. “I couldn’t be more thankful,” she said.

COVID-19 affects young and mature people, crosses socioeconomic levels and does not discriminate against gender. Please follow recommended guidelines to stay safe together.

Anberitha Matthews, PhD, is a vascular scientist and wellness coach at Redefining Health, LLC. She researches vascular injury as it pertains to oxidative stress to help clients improve their quality of life. In addition to being an APS member, she serves as vice chair for the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology Communications and Membership Council of the American Heart Association and performs consulting work in the areas of scientific editing, grantsmanship and protocol development.

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