Teladoc member Carolee M. thought she had a sinus infection, but it turned out to be COVID-19. She credits a Teladoc doctor with saving her life. The Dallas mom of two hopes her story will inspire others to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Carolee M. wasn’t worried when she woke up one day in January with a stuffy head. The airline sales director often gets sinus infections, so she reached for her usual drugstore nasal spray. But over the next few days, the symptoms didn’t go away. Her headaches got worse. Then, she lost her sense of taste and smell.
She grabbed her phone and used the Teladoc app to make an appointment. The doctor she spoke with advised her to get tested for COVID-19. Carolee tested positive.
Despite knowing that she had somehow contracted the virus, Carolee still wasn’t too worried.
“When I was diagnosed with COVID-19, I thought that what I was feeling was just a sinus infection because I’ve had friends who were just asymptomatic. It was no big deal, like a bad cold,” she said.
A 2 a.m. phone call
But Carolee kept feeling worse and worse and developed a nasty cough. Finally, on a Monday at 2 a.m., she reached out to Teladoc again. The Teladoc doctor listened to her cough and symptoms with concern.
“He told me, ‘What you need to do is, I need you to go to an emergency care and have a CT scan on your chest,'” Carolee said.
The next morning, the urgent care center diagnosed Carolee with pneumonia in both lungs and a 60% oxygen level (dangerously below her normal of 95%). She needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately.
She was stunned. None of the friends and family members she knew who had COVID-19 had been hospitalized. “I was the very first one.” That night, as she lay in her hospital bed scared she might die there, Carolee recorded a video for each of her sons (her eldest, 30, in California and his brother, 28, in Virginia) to tell them how proud she was of them and how much she loved them.
“I might not even be here”
Luckily, after four days and two plasma transfusions, she got to go home. Carolee credits Teladoc with saving her life.
“I hate going to doctors. I will try and self-medicate any way possible,” Carolee said. “If it wasn’t for Teladoc and that doctor telling me that I need to go and get a CT scan, I don’t know where I could have been. I possibly would not even be here…because I would have still been trying to self-medicate.”
Why vaccines are important
Carolee plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as she can and to donate her plasma “to help someone like they helped me.” Her skeptical father, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, saw what happened to his strong, healthy daughter and decided to get the vaccine. Carolee hopes her story can inspire more people to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Dr. Bridget McCabe, Teladoc VP and medical director of clinical quality, stresses the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as people are eligible.
“The one key thing that we know across all the vaccines is that it prevents severe disease hospitalization and death very well,” she said on the Teladoc Two Docs podcast. The vaccine is the best tool—in addition to wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing—to stay safe, she said. Her advice: “You should sign up and get your vaccine as quickly as you can.”
If people are concerned about side effects, Dr. McCabe emphasizes that the vaccines are safe. Severe allergic reactions are very, very rare, and when they do happen, they happen in the 15-minute window that all vaccinated people must stay and be observed after their shot. The vaccine sites are making sure people aren’t having any trouble breathing or get hives. Again, this very severe allergic reaction is quite rare. But, to be safe, vaccine sites have the appropriate staff to take care of any of these severe reactions.
After heading home and for a day or two after, some people do experience some mild discomfort, including being tired, feverish and having a sore arm. Dr. McCabe urges people to think of these reactions as a positive.
“Your immune system is working. It’s good that you had a little bit of a reaction,” she said, because the body is starting to “really prime your immune system to take care of that virus.”
“This stuff is real”
Carolee hopes her Teladoc experience can convince other people, particularly those in the Latinx community, to talk to a doctor if they feel sick.
“I want to bring awareness to people because I was one of the skeptics, too, but now it’s like ‘This stuff is real,'” she said. “Within my culture, people don’t like going to the doctor, but having the ability to utilize Teladoc makes things so much easier. Not only can it save their lives, but it allows them the ability to get the medication that they may need to get better.”
Think you might have COVID-19?
Published April 20, 2021
Updated on January 3, 2023