At the start of the year, Fiona Lowenstein was a writer, editor, and yoga instructor. The 26-year-old is still all of those things, but she now bears a new designation: coronavirus survivor.
It’s a label the New York City local is using to inform her Instagram audience of the dangers COVID-19 poses to young people, despite the flawed assumption it’s a disease which only targets the elderly and immun0-compromised.
Lowenstein, who spent two nights in hospital earlier this month when the virus left her struggling for breath, has documented the stages of her illness, and her ongoing recovery, on her Instagram Story.
“On Sunday night / early Monday morning I woke up with horrible nausea and ragged breathing,” Lowenstein said. “I vomited and was up most of the night with chills and nausea.”
Despite no pre-existing illness or health conditions, the situation worsened: Lowenstein said she downloaded a game to her phone while ill, but even swiping her finger was an effort.
After deliberating about whether to seek medical attention, Lowenstein’s breathing worsened. After attending the emergency room of Mt. Sinai Hospital, she was admitted for two nights and put on an oxygen tube.
It was after those two nights that Lowenstein finally tested positive for COVID-19.
“The doctors did not seem surprised,” Lowenstein said.
“They told me that they were treating a 30-year-old in the other room who is also healthy and didn’t have any prior conditions or previous conditions, and said that it was not uncommon for people my age to have serious problems breathing with this virus.”
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I AM OK! Tested positive for COVID-19 this morning after spending two nights in the hospital for shortness of breath. I’m so glad to report my breathing has MUCH improved. I’m going to continue to take it slow on communications and social media bc I’m trying to rest and do everything possible to calm my anxiety. Doctors say I am on the mend and should be released soon! Thank you so much to all of you who have been in touch with me, my partner, and my parents. I love you all and I will try to slowly reply to your each of your messages and emails. In the meantime, stay safe, stay inside if you are able, and PLEASE rest and isolate if you have any symptoms whatsoever or feel sick in any way! This started for me with a headache, for others with a sore throat, nausea, or runny nose. It doesn’t look the same for everyone so young people especially let’s do our part to contain it. More soon. And shouts out to the medical professionals in NYC rn who are fucking heroes doing incredible work ???????????? UPDATE: I am back home and slowly trying to recover. I will start (when I have energy) updating my highlighted story with more info on my experience in case others are interested or want to understand. Feel free to share the stories if you think they will help people.
In the days since, Lowenstein has isolated at home while she regains her strength and waits for her COVID-19 test results to come back negative. She’s now using that time in isolation to discuss her experience, both for the New York Times and for her growing online audience.
Her message is clear: coronavirus shouldn’t be fucked with, and young people have an obligation to take all available precautions to avoid infection.
“Millennials, if you can’t be good allies, at least stay home to protect yourselves. Our invulnerability to this disease is a myth — one I have experienced firsthand,” she wrote for the paper.
Discussing people still flocking to parks, she said it’s “disrespectful” not to utilise the “privilege” of being able to stay home during the pandemic.
While her saved Instagram Story recounts the severity of her ordeal, Lowenstein doesn’t believe the crisis calls for people to be shamed for their past inaction, as long as they recognise the importance of social distancing and enforce those ideals straight away.
“We all have been ignorant about this at some point during the crisis,” she said. “We all have made a mistake at some point during this crisis.”
“There is seriously no shame, there is no need to be embarrassed,” she added. “Let’s just try to course correct.”
You can watch Lowenstein recount her experience here.
If you think you may have coronavirus, either call your doctor (DON’T visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you’re struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
And please remember to wash your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) and keep at least 1.5 metres between you and those around you.