A 27-year-old reporter who was hospitalized with COVID-19 complications that she said “ravaged” her body is urging people to take the virus seriously.
Lyndsey Gough is a journalist in Savannah, GA, and she talked about her experience with the virus last week on CNN. She said she thinks she contracted COVID-19 while on assignment on June 20.
“I’ve been sick since the day I turned 27,” Gough said in the interview. “It’s been over a month now.”
Gough went to the hospital because of abdomen pain more than 10 days after finding out she was positive for COVID-19 in late June. She said doctors told her she needed her appendix to be removed and that they believed she had a rupture connected to the stress of the virus.
“They told me that my appendix was the size of a baseball,” she told CNN. “They also removed part of my colon, and they told me that coronavirus had literally ‘been a lightning strike’ to my body. My body just wasn’t able to fight it all off.”
Even as the U.S. has largely reopened, cases are surging nationwide — more than 4.3 million people have been infected with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 148,000 people have died of the virus.
In states that are experiencing a surge of cases, younger people are testing positive for COVID-19 at a higher rate than at the onset of the pandemic. For example, in Florida, the median age of positive cases dropped from 65 in March to 35 in June. According to the state’s health department, people between 25 and 34 years old accounted for the greatest number of cases as of July 28.
Other hotspots, including Arizona and California, have also reported that younger people make up the largest proportion of new cases.
The nation’s leading immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci as well as other experts have repeatedly cautioned against large gatherings, as well as going to bars. And yet, Disney World and other theme parks have reopened, and crowds of fans recently filled a field to see The Chainsmokers perform.
Even while covering COVID-19 as a reporter, Gough said that she underestimated the impact of the disease — and how it will continue to affect her is still largely unknown.
“I really don’t still feel good. I really don’t have a timeline to return to work still at this point. So it’s definitely something to take seriously,” she said. “They told me that when I left the hospital, my lungs sounded good for a COVID patient, but they are diminished. My chest X-rays, they said, looked ok, so I don’t have a ton of lung damage fortunately, but I am missing a part of my colon right now. I can have stuff pop up later on, they just don’t know at this point.”
The length of recovery time after contracting the virus also has been a point of debate. The Atlantic’s Ed Yong wrote in June that the disease’s “long-haulers” have experienced symptoms for up to three months.
Throughout the pandemic, other reporters in their twenties and thirties have shared their experiences living with COVID-19 — and urged fellow young people to be prepared, especially if they are living alone.
In April, a Los Angeles Times reporter who contracted the virus, Julia Wick, posted a wrenching thread about how the illness “can get worse very quickly even with a case that seems [mild].” Wick also shared practical tips, including keeping a thermometer at home and extra food in the freezer.
“If you are young and healthy and still able to go out for essential errands and assist others, act at all times as if you already have the virus,” Wick wrote in the LA Times. “Because you very well might. And in a worst-case scenario, you could be endangering the very people you aim to help.”