University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff seniors will remember this week as the time they would have walked across the stage for commencement.
Houston, Texas, native Andrewnae Botas will also remember it as the semester she beat COVID-19.
The nursing major noticed symptoms of what she thought were allergies around March 13. Since the season was changing, she wasn’t surprised that she was dealing with sneezing, stuffy nose, runny eyes, and scratchy throat. Botas said she knew something was off when allergy medicines didn’t relieve her symptoms. She went to an urgent care facility the following Tuesday and tested negative for the flu and strep. Although she was given a steroid shot and allergy medicine, they didn’t work either.
As someone that doesn’t get sick, Botas noticed that she developed a 100-degree fever shortly after the treatment. When she woke up the following day, she said it felt like a boulder was on her chest.
“I couldn’t really breathe, and my temperature spiked to 103 [degrees],” said Botas. “I realized then that this was not normal at all.”
During her visit to the hospital, she discovered she had pneumonia and was tested for coronavirus as a precaution. She was notified a few days later that her COVID-19 test was positive.
Botas recovered at the home of Kathy Harris, the mother of a friend of hers. She’d been staying with her since the time courses transitioned to online delivery at UAPB.
Because Botas was positive, Harris was quarantined with her. She didn’t have any symptoms, so she took on the role of caregiver for Botas.
“Our relationship grew because she is friends with my son,” Harris said. “You never know what kind of situation you’ll get into. You have to live through it to know how it feels. It was an overwhelming experience, but I love her like a daughter.”
The next few weeks challenged her mentally, physically, and spiritually. On top of difficulty breathing, she was also dealing with muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and lost nearly 20 pounds in seven days. Even the smallest tasks, like putting on pants or walking across a room, took four times the amount of effort.
“I prayed a lot and cried a lot,” Botas said. “At times, I thought I was at the end. [But] calling on God, talking on the phone with my family, and the help of Ms. Kathy – that’s what got me through it.”
On April 3, Botas received her discharge letter from her case manager. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, clearance is given when a person who tested positive is without symptoms for 72 hours.
Getting back to a sense of normalcy, Botas said it was tough to resume her studies. Now that she passed her final exams and degree requirements have been fulfilled, her focus has shifted to passing the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) with the goal of becoming a registered nurse. Her passion for caring for others, especially infants, feeds her desire to work in the neonatal intensive care unit. Her plans also include obtaining a graduate degree and exploring the field of midwifery.
Armed with a degree in nursing and a deepened appreciation for life, Botas’ perspective on the reach of the coronavirus has changed dramatically. She admits that she didn’t believe she could get it or be affected by it.
“Getting it at the age of 22, I realized that this could affect anybody,” Botas said. “It could affect you if you’re not taking the right precautions. I feel it needs to be taken seriously now more than ever.”