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They had no idea that a novel virus could spread so quickly. It was the early part of the pandemic and these family members gathered for an out-of-state funeral. In the months that followed, COVID-19 took its toll.
By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t doubt the devastation.
It’s a message LaTanya Clark hopes will resonate with skeptics. “COVID-19 is a deadly disease. I can attest to it. It’s not a myth or manmade. It’s real. I’m a testimony. Even if you aren’t showing symptoms, we should all act as if we are COVID-19 positive,” said Clark, Indianapolis. She speaks from the heart.
In early March - before stay-at-home orders, and heightened awareness about personal protection - Clark’s family members attended a funeral in Alabama. . The result in the weeks and months that followed was devastating. Four family members died of the coronavirus; five others tested positive, including Clark.
“By the time I got diagnosed I had been having symptoms for over week,” said Clark, who works with physician coding management for IU Health. Her symptoms started with nausea, a pounding headache and a dry cough. By the time she contacted her physician she was experiencing night sweats and having difficulty breathing.
She was tested for COVID-19 after learning another family member tested positive. Her test also came back positive. That was only the beginning. The virus made a ripple effect through Clark’s family – including her mother and brother. Some were hospitalized in critical condition for several days, breathing with the support of a ventilator.
Clark, the mother of an 8-year-old son isolated in her home. Food was brought to her bedroom door. For three weeks, she relied on the care of others as she fought to overcome symptoms from the deadly virus.
A relative of Clark’s, Alabama State Rep. Merika Coleman along with family member Jacqueline Edwards, shared the family’s story with members of the media in their home state. Coleman said she didn’t know when and where the family members contracted the virus but it was likely at a funeral in early March. Of the four family members who died, three had attended the funeral.
“It really hit us hard. We’re still grieving and even though we have members that are recovering and bodies may be healing, mentally we’re not doing well,” Edwards told local media. She said the youngest family member who died was 47.
Clark, who has worked at IU Health for seven years, is an Indianapolis native. She attended Broad Ripple High School. Afterward she received training in medical coding and certification as a medical coder instructor.
“You can hear statistics, but until it affects you, until it hits home, you may have doubts,” said Clark. “One exposure can have devastating effects. I look at things so differently now. This is not a common cold or the flu COVID-19 is a deadly disease.”