Dear Corona Diary: German patient gives updates on Twitter
BERLIN — On the fifth day after she fell ill with COVID-19 respiratory disease, Karoline Preisler could breathe again without wincing through severe pain in her chest.
But the 48-year-old from a small town in northeastern Germany was still sick and very weak. She had slept only three hours the night before in a hospital isolation ward. She worried constantly about her husband and three children.
“I miss my children so badly. They miss me, and we all miss that we can’t hug each other anymore,” Preisler said in a phone interview on Monday.
Preisler, who practices law and is a local politician in the Baltic Sea town of Barth, started experiencing symptoms a few hours after she tested positive for the new coronavirus last week. Her husband, a federal lawmaker, had tested positive earlier and been told to remain isolated in Berlin, a 299-kilometer drive (186 miles) away,
The couple's 9-year-old twins and 11-year-old tested negative, but health authorities ordered the children quarantined at home with their mother. When Preisler's symptoms worsened and she needed to be hospitalized on Saturday, her husband was permitted to go back to Barth to care for the children.
Lonely, frightened and unwell, Preisler turned to the internet for information from other patients but didn't find many first-hand accounts of living with and fighting the virus. So she decided to share her experience on Twitter, where she had about 5,000 followers.
Using the hashtag #coronatagebuch, German for #coronadiary, Preisler has given frequent updates on her condition. She posted photos of herself with hollow eyes and her lower face masked., images of cleaning staff in protective gear removing contaminated clothes from her hospital room and another selfie showing her receiving oxygen through thin tubes in her nose.
She also wrote intimate tweets about how she was doing emotionally - sometimes well, sometimes not so well - at a time when people around the world worry about the virus but know so little about how COVID-19 can play out on a personal level for someone who has it.
“Dear #coronadiary, today is my second day ... I am ill, the lung is like a big lump. I am whimpering like a whelp. The father will take over family life long-distance via Videochat. Corona is mean, bye,” Preisler said in one tweet.
Preisler is one of some 7,300 people who have tested positive in Germany, a country with a population of 83 million, She has not contracted pneumonia, an illness seen in people with severe forms of COVID-19. But due to a preexisting health condition, the virus made her more sick than is typical for someone her age.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with underlying health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks.
On the day after she tested positive, Preisler suffered from shortness of breath. She and her children marked off areas of their home with tape to create a makeshift isolation ward for mom while leaving the rest of the house to the healthy kids.
Preisler was too sick to cook so the children took over the kitchen, making waffles topped with lots of powdered sugar and browsing cookbooks for recipes.