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She’s young and healthy. But the coronavirus doesn’t check IDs

Nancy Fields thought she’d be headed to Vegas this month.

“I kept joking that it’s alright if we get it,” she says of the coronavirus. “I said we are young. We are healthy. We will get through it.”

That was a month ago. Now, the 29-year-old isn’t just staying home with the rest of Massachusetts, she’s getting over COVID-19.

Hers is one of the 15,202 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state. She was only able to get tested on March 30, after nearly two weeks of fevers, sore throat, diarrhea, and the one thing she still has: a cutting, dry cough.

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Fields works as an administrative assistant at Middlesex Community College. She’s a photographer and co-founder of Girl Magic Meets, a creative collective dedicated to collaboration and sisterhood through photography. And she’s a wife and mother. She knew the virus was real. She just didn’t grasp the gravity of it.

“No one was talking about young people getting it,” she says. “And people need to know it’s happening. No one is taking it seriously. When I was laying in bed sick, I was watching so many stories on Instagram of people partying together and drinking together. And if they go home to their parents or grandparents? I was in so much pain I laid in bed crying. My mom has lupus. My sister has asthma. If they went through this, I would be so terrified."

It’s been horrifying for her, and she’s not even 30. She’s in good shape. But the coronavirus doesn’t check IDs. Anybody can get it.

Fields isn’t sure how she contracted the virus. She was around a lot of students at work. And her husband, Boogie Fields, was sick right before her.

He came down with a low-grade fever and chills on Friday, March 13. They went to urgent care. He was tested for the flu. It came back negative. They were sent home. This was just before Mayor Marty Walsh declared a public health emergency. It was back when Governor Charlie Baker’s ban applied to gatherings of 250 people or more. The pandemic still felt far away.

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They saw family Saturday. She did a small photoshoot Sunday.

And then, as he started to feel better, she started to feel very, very sick. By Tuesday, March 17, she had a fever of 100.4 degrees, slight diarrhea, and a subtle but dry cough. That Wednesday, her fever climbed a bit higher. She felt exhausted, but the severity of her sore throat would not let her sleep. She called the doctor and was advised to quarantine for 14 days.

In their two-bedroom Lowell apartment, the Fields devised a system to keep her six feet away from her 9-year-old daughter, Kylee. They haven’t hugged in weeks.

“It’s hard. I can’t be in contact with my daughter,” Fields says. “Every day she’s at my door leaving me feel better messages and that helps get me through it. But it’s hard to not cook for her or help with her school work. But thank God I have my husband who is literally here to take care of her.”

Nancy Fields' 9-year-old daughter leaves her loves notes since they can't touch each other.
Nancy Fields' 9-year-old daughter leaves her loves notes since they can't touch each other.Nancy Fields

By Friday, March 20, Fields had lost her sense of smell and taste. She was told to come in to her doctor’s office in Lowell. They tested her for strep throat and the flu: both came back negative. They did not have access to coronavirus testing at that time. And she had to wait two days for the throat numbing agent they prescribed.

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On Monday, March 23, Fields got a phone call from the doctor. They put her on a list for coronavirus testing. She was set to get a call from a nurse and if she met the requirements, she’d be tested. Two days later, Fields had chest pains and felt faint.

“It felt like the pressure was squeezing my heart,” she says. “Around nine o’clock at night I called my doctor’s office. The on-call nurse heard my breathing, I guess it was wheezy. She suggested I call an ambulance and go to the hospital and no one can go with you.”

At Lowell General Hospital, she was given a chest X-ray. She was so dehydrated she needed potassium pills and an IV. Her vitals were off. They tested her sitting up, laying down, and standing. Each time, her vitals were different. Fields was diagnosed with pneumonia and given meds.

When her doctor followed up with her virtually on Friday, March 27, she told Fields she should have gotten the call for testing. That next day, her phone rang. On Monday, March 30, two weeks into a sickness that has her six pounds lighter, she was tested.

“It’s very organized,” Fields says of the testing itself, designed to be quick and with minimal contact. “You write your name and birthday on a piece of paper and put it on your dashboard. A nurse comes, you roll down your window, and she swabs your throat, and you are out. I got the results the next day.”

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She has coronavirus. And more than three weeks into the infection, she’s finally on the other side of things. She feels better. She can eat comfort food like eggs and rice. But she’s worried about the world around her.

“I am afraid if someone else has what I have, and their immune system isn’t as strong as mine, and they get tested on day 14,” she says. “What if it is too late for them?”

She thinks about the diarrhea so bad it dizzied her. And the inescapable weight on her chest. And the violence of her sore throat.

“It felt like I was swallowing glass,” she says. “I hoped that would be the hardest part. But being alone is the scariest part. What if I didn’t have my husband? He had to bathe me and he was here to wash my hair. What about the older people and single people who have to be by themselves?”

She’s also concerned about anti-Asian attacks against her community. One of her friends in Lowell got blamed by a man on the street for the virus. And he called her a racist slur.

“I’ve been preparing myself in case something happens,” she says. “I’m not afraid. I know who I am and who my community is. If there is any hatred, everyone would be on my side. Why are people being so disrespectful? Why blame any of this on anybody? It’s a virus.”

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Right after she tested positive, Fields wanted people to understand what she hadn’t. She wanted them to know not every healthy person is symptom-free like Idris Elba and the young aren’t untouchable. So she got on Instagram and shared her story.

Dozens upon dozens of her friends and followers asked questions.

“Everyone has been supportive and shown so much love. I wanted to make sure people are taking this seriously,” she says. “People can’t continue to have parties. You never know who has it. I would have never known.”

Fields, her husband, and her daughter have to continue to quarantine until April 13. Every day, she reports their temperatures to the Department of Public Health. Fields is finally able to leave her bedroom, but remains six feet away from her daughter.

“It’s hard,” she says of the distance. But she’s happy to be recovering from the toughest parts of this fight with the coronavirus.

“One of the hardest nights was when I woke up at 3 in the morning and went to the bathroom and I saw white, like I might pass out. I thought, what if something happens to me and I die right here?”

And she’s one of the young, healthy ones.


Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee