A first-hand experience from an Eastern State Hospital employee

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Eastern State Hospital near Medical Lake, WA

DSHS staff who provide direct care to clients at any of the agency’s 24/7 facilities know exactly what it is like to be on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19. They are often at the highest risk for exposure to the virus.

As of Jan. 4, 2021, Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake, WA, has had 75 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020. One of the employees who contracted the virus was Jennifer Rich, who has worked at ESH since 2012.

Below is Jennifer’s experience with COVID-19 in her own words. She wants everyone to know and understand that this virus is real. We are so thankful that Jennifer is recovering. It is important to stress that even though there is a vaccine available now, we still need to continue wearing masks, socially distancing and washing our hands frequently.

My name is Jennifer C. Rich and I am 47 years old. I’ve worked at Eastern State Hospital since 2012. I was told I was COVID-19 positive on Dec. 10. My symptoms developed a few days after that.

The no smell and no taste was annoying and felt weird. The right side of my head hurt and the fatigue and tiredness was very overwhelming. Then the tops of my toes became extremely painful. I was dizzy and felt sick to my stomach and I felt like I was shaking. I called my parents and told them that I was COVID-19 positive and I could hear the fear in my mom’s voice.

The Spokane County Regional Health Department called me and offered to drop off groceries and cleaning supplies and pay my cell phone bill, and they offered to pay my Avista power bill. They also wanted to pay my city of Spokane water and trash bill. I was offered an ambulance ride to the ER that had an open bed or open room if needed.

Jayme Skehan, Chief Nursing Officer at Eastern, said if there was anything I needed to call her. My co-worker, Kismet, dropped off groceries for me. The COVID-19 is very real and it took a lot out of me! I felt awful and I cried and it felt like the COVID-19 was trying to shut my body down. For a few days I just drank water and orange juice and I got up to use the bathroom. It was so rough and I was praying to God to just help me get through this. I felt so bad and I was moving so slow and one day I fell on the floor and I hit my head and I couldn’t remember what I was doing before I fell.

I wanted to share my story and tell you what I felt and what I went through. We all need to work together to stop the spread and stop the passing of COVID-19. I have never felt so bad in my life and it was a struggle for me to fight those symptoms that would come on in waves. COVID-19 is no joke and it doesn’t feel like the flu or a bad head cold. It is way worse!!

Please wear your mask over your nose and your mouth and wash your hands often and social distance and, if you choose to, get the vaccine. So many people have lost their lives to this COVID-19.

I am still in recovery from having COVID-19. Some of the symptoms still come and go and I am getting a little better every day. But I managed to stay out of the ER I kept telling myself, “Jenny, just keep fighting, be strong” and I was saying to myself, “It is not time for me to die yet.” I have worked with so many of you and I have laughed with you, I have cried with you. Thank you for letting me share my story. I respect each and every one of you.

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