WEST ORANGE, N.J. – An intensive care unit (ICU) doctor who is fighting COVID-19 says her body thought it was a 90-year-old woman with emphysema.
Two weeks after being diagnosed with the coronavirus illness, Dr. Julie John says her body is showing signs of recovery, but she’s not where she’s supposed to be.
“I am 38 years old and my body is not healing fast enough,” John said during a CNN interview on Monday.
The New Jersey doctor says she was reluctant to call 911 when she first suspected she might have COVID-19, because she didn’t want her 6-year-old and 8-year-old children to see the paramedics intubate her.
“I couldn't catch my breath because I was drowning in my lungs and I was breathing faster and I checked my home pulse ox – it was down to almost 85,” John said. “I knew if I called 911, what an EMT would want to do to somebody like me, who was working hard to breathe.”
The doctor ended up making a video to say goodbye to her kids. If she ended up passing away from the disease, she says they would have gotten the video in five years.
“I was so short of breath, I couldn't breathe,” said John. “I just wanted to tell my kids that they are the most important thing in the world to me. Mommy was a doctor. But I never stopped caring about them and, you know, things like treat the world good. It's been great to us. I love you and I want to be there, but I can't.”
John hasn’t been able to see her children since being diagnosed, so she’s been facetiming with them to keep in contact. One of kids understands that she’s a doctor, knows what John is going through and actually asks her if she’s going to die like her patients.
“I spoke to my son and my daughter says ‘mommy, like, are you going to be like the patients that you treat who are dying?’ And yesterday, I showed them the video and my daughter said, ‘oh, but you're alive and you made this video?’ I said ‘yes. By god's grace I’m alive.’ The fear that I might get sick, I’m not Dr. John anymore. I'm a mom and a mom very scared of this still.”
John says she has another seven to 14 days to go before she can hug her kids.
“How am I dealing with it emotionally? My community, my friends, my family, my 66-year-old mother, who is my strength and my kids who facetime and send me messages and I get to see them for an hour a day at most,” said John.