Metro Detroit COVID-19 survivor warns: Don’t let down your guard around COVID-19

Mom shares how the virus moved through her family

Nina Lewellen is a healthy mother of two who said she was cautious about the coronavirus this spring.
Nina Lewellen is a healthy mother of two who said she was cautious about the coronavirus this spring.

DETROIT, Mich. – Nina Lewellen is a healthy mother of two who said she was cautious about the coronavirus this spring.

“I definitely took the precautionary measures. I definitely quarantined. I stayed home with my kids, I worked from home. So I did what i was supposed to do,” said Lewellen.

But in June, as the stay-at-home order was lifted and things started to relax, so did Lewellen.

“I started seeing my friends again. My guard was definitely down,” said Lewellen.

Lewellen’s 30th birthday was June 21st. She celebrated with friends at a backyard pool and had a party with her extended family.

The first sign of trouble came about eight days later.

“My mom really kind of started with like a little cough. She’s got asthma, no big deal, there’s allergies happening. I didn’t even think anything of it. A couple days later, on July 1st, I had a headache. Just a bad headache,” said Lewellen. “I found out the next day after my headache, that my mom had actually gotten a lot worse and that she had taken a COVID test, and the results hadn’t come back yet. So, immediately, that kind of freaked me out. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, l need to go get tested.’”

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At this point, test results were taking two weeks or more to come back. Lewellen’s mom was hospitalized and tested positive. Lewellen was getting worse each day.

“My breathing had become really rapid, short, shallow,” remembered Lewellen.

On July 9th, Lewellen was admitted to the hospital.

“I had elevated levels that showed an increased chance of blood clotting. I really couldn’t stand. I couldn’t pass the respiratory test,” said Lewellen.

In the hospital, Lewellen’s heart rate dropped dangerously low.

“They put the pads on my chest, and they kept them on me for three more nights while I was there, just basically ready at any time that they were going to have to come in and shock me back to life,” said Lewellen.

Lewellen spent five days in the hospital. Her mother spent ten. Another family member also got sick and tested positive.

Their family did their own contact tracing, warning everyone they thought might be at risk. Still, they wondered who first exposed them.

An antibody test revealed the answer.

“My little boy, my sweet little three-year-old. He came back positive for antibodies and negative for a current infection. So the doctor came in and said, ‘You got it from him,’” said Lewellen.

She wants families to understand --

Kids get this, and kids can spread it. Kids do spread it.”

Two months later, Lewellen’s mother is still recovering.

“I don’t know how far reaching this damage will be. I am concerned that this has taken years off my mother’s life, honestly. And I’m glad that she’s here. I hope that she will recover and make a full recovery, but it’s it’s too soon to tell that,” said Lewellen.

As we head into fall, back to school, and the temptation of the holidays, Lewellen hopes others can learn from her family’s experience.

“I tell people to manage their risk,” said Lewellen. “I understand that we still have to live life, in some capacity. Choose the least riskiest option that you can do in every situation. Wear a mask to protect yourself and to protect others. It’s such a small thing that you can do to show your care and your compassion for other people.”

Lewellen says, she knows she is one of the lucky ones. Still, she can’t believe how this virus has impacted, and continues to impact, her family.