Name: Cassi Zimmerman
Illness duration: 8 weeks+
Pre-existing conditions: none
Suspected source: Asymptomatic friend
First in a series looking at real people with Kootenay connections who have had COVID-19.
Before Dec. 21, 2020, Cassi Zimmerman was a typical young woman spending her days working a retail job in Castlegar and hanging out with friends. But that was the day Zimmerman noticed the first signs of COVID-19, and her life has been anything but typical since.
At first her symptoms were vague and mild, starting with simple congestion. She called the provincial COVID-19 line, was told her symptoms did not fit with the COVID profile and she didn’t need to get a test. But after several more days, she began to feel worse. A second call also resulted in the advise not to get a test.
Finally on Dec. 26, Zimmerman’s mother used the online COVID tool and checked off symptoms Zimmerman didn’t have, just to get a test. A few days later, Zimmerman was notified she tested positive for COVID-19.
She spent most of the holiday season in quarantine, separated from her family, even in her own home.
Her symptoms included difficulty breathing, lost of taste and smell, a burning sensation in her chest, headache and extreme fatigue.
“I felt like I had knives in my nostrils. It hurt,” said Zimmerman.
She says the situation was very stressful and she felt isolated. But caution paid off and no one else in her family caught the illness.
By the beginning of January 2021, Zimmerman was feeling better and returned to work Jan. 7. But throughout the day she began to feel hot and itchy and developed a rash on her legs. She went home and the rash continued to spread across her body.
A Zoom call with a COVID clinic resulted in an order for urgent blood work. The results were inconclusive, but the rash started to subside.
But then on Jan. 14, the rash came came back, covering her stomach, thighs, legs and feet.
“My feet were pretty much like pools of blood,” said Zimmerman. “It started to really, really hurt.”
She was told she was having an auto-immune reaction.
“It was causing my blood vessels to burst because I didn’t have enough oxygen when I had COVID,” she said.
This was followed by a series of consultations with a post-COVID clinic and specialists. But the only thing they could offer were medications to help calm the symptoms.
Zimmerman endured several incisional biopsies on her foot. She’s lost track of how many vials of blood have been taken from her arm.
Zimmerman has now volunteered to participate in research regarding post-acute COVID-19 syndrome or “long-haulers” as those with continuing symptoms have been dubbed.
She felt it was important to speak out “so people know it’s not just a cold.”
She also wants to encourage people to follow the restrictions.
“This can be seriously detrimental to your health,” she says. “I am young, so I can get through it — but if this was an older person, they would not be good right now.”
Emotionally the journey has been hard as well and Zimmerman has experienced some unkind and uncaring words from others.
She’s been told she was to blame for catching it, accused of not following protocols — even though Zimmerman puts herself in the “rule-follower” category.
But Zimmerman finds the more frustrating comments come from those trying to minimize the disease.
“Oh, you’re just one of the ‘one per cent,’” she’s been told as if the “one per cent” don’t matter.
“Some people are just completely overlooking what I have been going through,” said Zimmerman. “It makes me angry, sad and overwhelmed.
“It is really annoying because people like that won’t know how it feels unless they get it and they won’t change their minds.”
She says it’s also frustrating to hear of people still having parties, especially since she believes she caught the illness from an asymptomatic person.
“People think they are safe, but they don’t understand they could pass it to others,” she said.
Zimmerman says this has been the worst illness she has ever dealt with. And it’s nowhere near over.
Do you have a COVID-19 story to tell? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.