Sarasota couple gets COVID-19 at the same time, shares message of knowing possible symptom signs


SARASOTA, Fla. (NBC) – Nancy Arntsen says everything started early April, when her husband Jeff was losing his mental capacity.

“He was deteriorating very, very rapidly. He has dementia, but this was way over and above that,” Nancy said.

She says he had trouble even forming words

“He also had just a tickle of a cough, enough that I got out some cough drops, but he got better, and I put them away,” she said.

Then he fell several times, and lost control of his bladder and bowel movements.

“A friend of ours who’s a pharmacist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital called and asked how we were doing, and when I told her she said, ‘I’m going to call the ambulance for both of you…I said both of us? she said yes, there’s something going on.” Arntsen said.

Nancy was so busy taking care of Jeff she didn’t realize she had a 103-degree fever.

“They took us by ambulance to the E.R. at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where there they did chest X-rays, and we were both immediately diagnosed with double pneumonia,” she said.

The doctor could tell just from Jeff’s X-ray he also had COVID-19, but they weren’t sure about Nancy at that point, so the couple were separated into different rooms. Nancy went home after two nights in the hospital and had a hard time communicating with Jeff because of his mental state. It was so weak from his dementia and the coronavirus.

“After the first night they woulnd’t let us see each other it was horrible,” Arntsen said.

She says the doctor told them 40% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital had GI issues, as opposed to the typical symptoms like shortness of breath and a bad cough.

“It was a real shock to me. Monday of that week I was having severe diarrhea and body pain that was unbelievable,” Arntsen said.

Nancy wants everyone to know she didn’t have the tell-tale symptoms of the virus, and neither did her husband. She says in retrospect her husband did have the slight cough, but the falling and deteriorating mental state were also signs.

“We had symptoms that aren’t necessarily mentioned, the decrease in mental status, another one was the falling. I think if we had gotten treated sooner, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten as ill as we did,” Arntsen said.


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