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Pregnant woman with COVID-19 on road to recovery

Coronavirus

IDAHO FALLS — After five days in the hospital and a week on oxygen at her home, a 36-year-old Idaho Falls woman has nearly won her battle with the novel coronavirus.

“It was a constant struggle for a while because her (oxygen) would drop into the 80s, and her coughing would get pretty severe, but over the last few days, we’ve noticed a massive improvement,” said Jeremy Anderson, husband of Kim Anderson.

Jeremy calls the recovery a miracle and attributes it to the prayers of the community, and the efforts of health care workers, particularly Kim’s obstetrician, Dr. Glenn Leavitt. Kim is eight months pregnant and was seeing him for prenatal care.

But the couple says Leavitt, who is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, ended up doing a lot more than simple prenatal care. They say his osteopathic treatments have been instrumental in Kim’s recovery.

RELATED | Pregnant mom hospitalized at EIRMC with COVID-19; husband speaks out about lack of testing

How it all started

The Anderson family believes Kim contracted COVID-19 on a trip to the grocery store sometime in mid-March.

Kim started exhibiting signs of a respiratory ailment around March 22 or 23. The illness started with body aches, fatigue and chills, but other more serious symptoms quickly developed. Severe coughing, pain, fevers, night sweats, dizziness and extreme fatigue set in.

Due to the severity of the ailment, Leavitt recommended a variety of medical tests. But when they came up negative, he ordered a COVID-19 test. Kim learned she was positive April 1.

She was hospitalized later that week after her symptoms worsened.

During this ordeal, Jeremy and Kim gained some attention on the internet for posting about their inability to get COVID-19 testing for the rest of their family. Jeremy and five of their six children had also begun experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, although none were as severe as Kim’s.

In a Facebook post that has now been shared 5,600 times, Kim lamented that health care workers had told her the rest of the family didn’t need to be tested, and that they should just assume they have it. She said the state is presenting misinformation about coronavirus numbers, because although she is counted on the state’s official tally, the rest of her family are not.

Treating COVID-19 in the hospital

The vast majority of people diagnosed with COVID-19, like the rest of the Anderson family, never get sick enough to require hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms typically resolve on their own, usually within a two- to three-week period.

“Kim thought she was going to die.”

But Leavitt said Kim’s late-term pregnancy made her more susceptible to the symptoms, as it lowered her immune system. Carrying a baby can also cause illness or fatigue.

“Kim thought she was going to die. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t get enough oxygen, and she felt like she just couldn’t do anything,” Jeremy said.

While at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, Kim received oxygen, and based on a collaboration between Leavitt and her family practitioner, she was administered hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria.

Hydroxychloroquine has not been FDA approved for the treatment of the novel coronavirus, but national media outlets report it is being used by doctors across the country with mixed results. It has also been widely touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19 and is currently in clinical trials to determine its efficacy to treat the illness.

The biggest concern for doctors was getting Kim’s depleted oxygen levels up. There were discussions about putting her on a ventilator, but Leavitt suggested they try some osteopathic treatments first.

Osteopathic doctors receive special training in medical school on how the body’s muscles, nerves and bones interact. Leavitt suggested a treatment called a lymphatic pump, which involved body movements and chest compressions designed to rid the body of excess fluid. Learn more about the technique here.

“When I went to see Kim in the hospital, she had the usual complaints of a coronavirus patient — shortness of breath, and her ribs really hurt,” Leavitt told EastIdahoNews.com. “I told her there are things we can do with muscles and bones … and she seemed significantly better after every treatment just because it was getting fluid out of her.”

Leavitt performed osteopathic treatments on her twice a day while she was at EIRMC, Jeremy said.

“It’s amazing what he did,” Jeremy said. “There was no risk to our baby, but twice a day he took the time to include her in his rotation, and I believe it saved her life.”

He also credits physical therapists, who forced Kim to get up and walk, and the widespread support of the community.

When Kim was released on April 8, she still had a long road ahead of her. Her oxygen levels still dropped frequently, and she has remained connected to an oxygen tank.

Leavitt made a house call to teach Jeremy some osteopathic techniques to help her with her breathing.

“It’s been the best thing ever and provided a lot of relief,” Jeremy said.

In the last few days, Kim has been able to do some simple tasks without being connected to an oxygen tank, and the family believes she is well on her way to full recovery.

What’s next for the family

Throughout the entire ordeal, the family has kept in daily contact with the Eastern Idaho Public Health District.

“Take this seriously.”

Due to the sickness within the family, EIPHD ordered the rest of the household to remain isolated for the better part of two weeks. The family recently got permission to venture out again to visit a grocery store or go outside.

Jeremy says the rest of the family has mostly recovered.

“I still have the occasional cough, but the kids are 90 to 100 percent recovered,” he said. “They are playing and having fun, no one wakes up and says they aren’t feeling well, and I’ve been able to start working again.”

Jeremy says their family is grateful for all of the public’s support, and for the people sacrificing their time to stay home and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Take this seriously,” Jeremy said. “It knocked our family flat and it nearly cost Kim her life. It’s not worth messing around with — so be safe and do the right thing.”

Leavitt agrees with that sentiment. He says although influenza has killed more people this year, the speed at which coronavirus spreads is impressive.

“The way this has gone across the whole world in like 90 days is pretty unbelievable,” Leavitt said. “It’s changed the world, and we’ve never seen anything like this.”

Information about the novel coronavirus

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Idaho rose to 41 Wednesday, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

In total, 1,587 have tested positive for the virus statewide since March 13.

It’s not clear how many of those individuals have fully recovered, but given a month has gone by, it’s certain that some have. That’s not a number the state tracks, though officials say the novel coronavirus has a very high recovery rate.

A total of 45 cases have been reported in eastern Idaho, and no deaths have occurred on this side of the state, according to Eastern Idaho Public Health District and Southeast Idaho Public Health District.

The number of COVID-19 tests available in Idaho continues to grow daily. However, public health officials continue to warn that due to initial testing limitations, the actual number of coronavirus cases may be much higher than is being reported.

EIPH says it’s more important than ever to follow the recommendations and directions of federal, state and local health officials, including the following:

  • Following the stay-home order, which was announced by Gov. Brad Little on March 25 and was extended through April 30 Wednesday. A copy of the order can be found at www.EIPH.Idaho.gov.
  • Practicing social-distancing (maintaining at least 6 feet between individuals), avoiding crowds of any number, and eliminating all non-essential travel, as detailed in the order.
  • Staying home when sick even if your symptoms are mild. A symptom-monitoring checklist and decision tree was recently developed to help individuals and employers determine what they should do if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been primarily or secondarily exposed to a person with COVID-19 symptoms. A copy of these documents can be found at www.EIPH.Idaho.gov. This monitoring tool can be used daily by everyone to assess their health during this pandemic.
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces, washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • People with an increased risk of severe illness (older adults and those with underlying health conditions) should take extra precautions to avoid exposure to COVID-19.

For questions, guidance, and information about COVID-19, visit EIPH’s website at www.EIPH.Idaho.gov or call the hotline number at (208) 522-0310 or (855) 533-3160 (toll free). The hotline is active Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has also started a statewide hotline. It can be reached by calling 888-330-3010, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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