The Current

Alone and struggling to breathe, this COVID-19 patient's parents use video calls to keep watch as she sleeps

Manija Raofi is self-isolating at her New York home with COVID-19, as the state struggles under the weight of one-third of America’s cases.

Manija Raofi self-isolating in New York, as hospitals bear brunt of U.S. outbreak

Manija Raofi was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week. She is living alone after she sent her two young children to stay with their father. (Submitted by Manija Raofi)

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A New York woman is home alone and experiencing breathing difficulties from COVID-19, but insists she doesn't want to take a hospital bed from someone who might need it more.

Manija Raofi, 35, tested positive for the virus on March 21, but was sent home from the hospital to self-isolate. 

She was back in the emergency room within a few days, struggling for breath.

"They said that they had stabilized my oxygen, my fever had gone down, and that's all they could possibly do for me at that point," Raofi told The Current's Matt Galloway.

New York has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., with the state accounting for almost half of all the country's confirmed cases and fatalities, according to the New York Times

COVID-19 cases are already overwhelming hospitals and morgues in New York with no end in sight while New Orleans is expecting a similar situation in the coming days. 2:19

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said cases are expected to rise for the next 21 days, and is seeking to increase capacity from 53,000 beds to 140,000 beds statewide, to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed.

In the U.S. and other countries, efforts to keep beds free for the worst-affected patients mean some who test positive, like Raofi, are being asked to isolate at home.

Discharged again and living alone, her parents have watched over her via video call.

Raofi spoke to Galloway from her Manhattan home. Here is part of their conversation.

How are you feeling?

I'm OK today. I just woke up in cold sweats, a lot of nausea this morning. When I think that I'm getting a little better, I feel like I just go backwards again.

I'm sorry that this is so rough for you. Do you have somebody who's there taking care of you?

No, unfortunately. I live in Manhattan alone with my two young children, but they were able to go with their dad for this past week, so I haven't seen them in a week.

Just trying to, you know, keep everyone away from me.

And your parents, they're in California … Have they been checking in on you? 

They will facetime me on WhatsApp, and they just watch me sleep for hours, just to make sure that I'm OK. Because I have been having issues with my breathing, when I start coughing or if I talk too much, I have to gasp for air. So they've been very worried. My mom wanted to come, I told her not to. But they are worried.

They must be. Tell me how you ended up in the emergency department earlier this week.

I just felt like I couldn't breathe. It was really hard getting air into my lungs. I was on the phone with my parents and they forced me to call an ambulance. 

A sign is posted on the door of the ER at St. Barnabas Hospital, New York. (Misha Friedman/Getty Images)

I did end up calling for an ambulance just because I was alone, I couldn't breathe. They came, took me to Lenox Hill Hospital, which they said was specializing in COVID-19. 

They rolled me into that ER and everyone is suited up. The nurses are just in line waiting for the next patient. It was kind of surreal. 

I just felt like I was this outsider — I did something bad almost, for even having it. And I felt horrible just being there. But they're really nice. They put me on oxygen for a few hours. They stabilized my breathing. I had a fever, and they put like three bags of fluid in me just because I was so dehydrated.

It hurts so bad to walk even to the kitchen to get a cup of water for yourself — it is just the most painful experience I've ever gone through. 

Dr. Tanzib Hossain describes what doctors in New York are seeing in hospitals as the city becomes the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. 4:30

Why did they send you home? If it's so bad, what are you doing at home and not still in the hospital?

Honestly, I don't think they have enough room. 

They said that they had stabilized my oxygen, my fever had gone down, and that's all they could possibly do for me at that point. They said, if I don't feel good again or if I feel like I cannot breathe, to come right back to the emergency room. 

And that's what they're doing with everybody, I noticed in the emergency room. Everyone was kind of just in and out after a few hours of being there.

You said you woke up this morning and you were in a cold sweat and you feel terrible. Will you go back to the emergency department?

I don't think so. I wouldn't want to take a bed away from someone else who really needs it.

If I feel like I can't breathe again, or if I'm at a loss of breath, or if my coughing does get worse again, I would probably go. They did take an X-ray of my chest, which brought me some relief.

My chest was clear — that's honestly all I was worried about was my chest — if I had caught pneumonia or not.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Tracy Fuller and Falice Chin.

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