Tough Coronavirus Recovery

Benny Westcott

OK Country owner Diane Farthing is still feeling the effects of a COVID-19 bout that began on Sunday, June 6.

Multiple members of her family were also infected. The experience has made her more wary of the disease.

“Before, I was nervous, but now I don’t ever want COVID and I don’t want my family to get COVID,” she said.

Farthing, 49, woke up in bed that Sunday night, “freezing.” The next day she had a fever and chills. On Tuesday, although she didn’t have a fever, she just felt tired, so she decided to go to work because she needed to do orders. But she ultimately went home, feeling unwell. The fever returned Wednesday, June 9, and she received a concerned call from her 20-year-old daughter, Ashley.

“[She] says ‘Mom, you have COVID. Those symptoms are COVID symptoms,'” Farthing said. “I’m like ‘No, it’s not,’ and she’s like ‘Yeah, it is.'”

Ashley was experiencing the same symptoms, and she told her mom, “You could die from this.”

“I was like, ‘OK, great,” Farthing said, with a laugh.

That night, her husband, John, took her into the ER at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital because her symptoms changed from mild to more serious, as stomach issues also set in. At the ER, she tested positive for COVID.

“They said, ‘Just rest. There’s no cure for COVID, so all you can do is rest,'” Farthing said.

 The physicians suggested she wait 10 days, and then she would improve.

Upon returning home, the family was tested for COVID. Farthing’s youngest daughter, Isabelle, 11, and husband tested positive, while her middle child, 17-year-old Emily, tested negative.

John and Isabelle suffered from relatively mild fever and chills, and lost some of their senses of taste and smell for a few weeks.

After her family’s multiple positive diagnoses, Emily moved out, because she was graduating from Sweet Home High School on Friday, June 11. Then, amidst that happy occasion, Diane took a turn for the worse.

“On Friday night, after watching our daughter’s graduation on the TV, I became so exhausted,” she recalled. “Like mono exhausted. It just totally knocks you out. It’s just awful.”

She said she dragged herself into bed, where she remained until Tuesday.

“I was so exhausted and really sick to my stomach a lot,” she said, “and I had a fever. It was pretty miserable.”

She returned to the ER on Tuesday, June 15, where she was told there weren’t any beds available. She’d have to go to the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis to be admitted.

“I was like, ‘nah, I’m almost at the end of it. I’m feeling OK now because I’ve been rehydrated,'” she said.

So Farthing went home.

But not for long.

John called emergency medical technicians that Thursday, because his wife was gasping for air. They put her on oxygen and took her to the hospital in Lebanon, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia in both of her lungs, as well as a blood clot in one.

“I’m like, ‘wow, this is a week later,'” Farthing said.

She was admitted and started on steroids and an antiviral drug. While she was in bed, the doctors told her to sleep on her stomach at least twice a day for at least a couple of hours.

“If you’re ever bed-bound, sleep on your stomach at least a few times or sleep on your sides. Don’t just lay on your back, because then all of the fluid kind of pools in there,” Farthing advised, referring to how more of the lungs are open when one lies on his or her stomach, allowing for more oxygen flow.

She was in the hospital for 4½ days. When she returned to work at OK Country, at first she could handle only about an hour per day.

Reflecting on her experience, Farthing noted how it started off mild and progressively got worse.

She said the first few days she didn’t take anything to control the fever.

“I was raised with the mentality that when you’re sick, your body temperature goes up to fight the virus,” she said. “So I’m like, cool, kick virus butt.”

But doctors told her that method doesn’t work with COVID, suggesting taking something to bring the fever down and make her more comfortable.

“COVID is very scary,” she said. “The whole thing has been scary, even beforehand. I don’t ever want to get COVID again.

“It was really, really bad. I’m glad my kids and husband didn’t get it as bad, because I don’t know if I could have handled seeing one of them in the hospital.

“It’s a crazy disease,” she continued. “It’s like it almost has a mind of its own. It goes in there and is like ‘OK, how can I kill this person?’ It finds wherever your weaknesses are and attacks that.”

However, Farthing said, the vaccine scares her too. She said she was planning on getting it before she contracted COVID.

“But then people would come in and tell me these horror stories of relatives who had gotten the vaccine and had something go wrong with it,” she said.

She noted that on the other side, a few of her employees and their families are vaccinated and had no issues.

“When I first got out of the hospital I thought that I’m going to get vaccinated and have our whole family get vaccinated,” she said. “But now I’m kind-of nervous because more stories are coming out about people that are having issues with it.

“I don’t tell people whether they should get a vaccine or not. I think it’s everybody’s decision what they want to do. But they definitely should learn about it and read about it.”

She’s been visiting the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website to read about common reactions to different types of vaccines. Farthing said her family was on the fence about it before she was diagnosed with COVID.

“It seemed fishy,” she said of the vaccine rollout. “They were really pushing the vaccine. Then they were like ‘Oh, we’re making a lottery out of it. Now if you get vaccinated, you get entered into a lottery.’

“We were like, ‘Hmm, something seems fishy here.'”

But after her COVID battle, she said, “They probably just really wanted everybody to get vaccinated so the disease would stop spreading.”

She’s not an anti-vaxxer by any stretch, she said.

“When our kids were young, we got them all vaccinated,” she said. “I’m not opposed to vaccines at all. But a lot of those vaccines have been around since I was a little kid. Whereas these vaccines came out really fast.

“A lot of people I talk to, that’s their fear and concern. The vaccine came out super-fast, so they’re wondering how much testing they did on it. I hear a lot of people say that they are being treated as a guinea pig.”

More than a month later, she’s still dealing with memory-related problems she thinks were caused by COVID. During her first week back from her extensive hospital stay, she couldn’t perform basic math.

“I went home and cried,” she said, “because I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, my brain has been damaged from COVID.'”

That mental faculty has returned, but she still has difficulty remembering names. “Some people, I can see their face, but I can’t remember their name until 20 or 30 minutes later,” she said.

Returning to work and resuming a typical routine has helped the fog lift, she said.

COVID-19, while certainly still present, has been declining countywide over the past few months.

In the seven-day period from July 13 to July 19, 91 new cases were reported in Linn County, compared to 267 new cases reported in the seven-day period from April 27 to May 3, for example.

As of July 19, 56.4 percent of Linn County residents 18 and over had been vaccinated. This makes Linn 17th in Oregon’s 36 counties in terms of vaccination rate. Washington County has the highest vaccination rate at 74.9 percent, while Lake County has the lowest at 36.2 percent.