Hannah Miles had heard all of the talk, rumors and gossip about COVID-19 long before she was diagnosed with it.
The former Roseburg resident and Umpqua Community College student had heard about how the disease, caused by the novel coronavirus, wasn’t anything worse than the common cold. She’d also heard people compare it to the flu — something she said she’s had as recently as February.
But this wasn’t the flu, or a cold. This was nothing like anything she’s had before.
“I will happily take the flu any day over COVID-19,” she said. “I wasn’t afraid of it at all, and I feel like I should have been a lot more serious about it. I thought it would be a case where I would get over it and be able to resume my daily life, and that wasn’t the case at all.
“People need to be really, really serious about it. Seriously, people. Stay home.”
This is the second such life-threatening experience Miles has had in the past five years. On Oct. 1, 2015, she was in the former Snyder Hall on UCC’s campus when, in an adjacent room, eight students and a teacher were shot and killed and nine other students were wounded before the shooter took his own life.
Miles, 23, said memories of her experience during the mass shooting came back after her COVID-19 diagnosis, with some people on social media offering their support but not understanding the gravity of her experiences.
“Back then, I got a lot of people who would say things like, ‘It’s not that bad. You’ll be OK,’” she said. “Then when this happened, I had people saying some of the same things, but I know ... seeing some of that support helped me realize that no matter how bad it gets, it’s going to be OK.
“My sister (Hailey) said it really well,” Miles continued. “She told me, ‘You didn’t survive a mass shooting just to be taken out by a virus.’ The sheer fact that the whole UCC experience and ordeal carried over like this five years later is just crazy.”
Miles, who now lives in Frisco, Texas — a city not far north of Dallas — said she was diagnosed by a doctor at a local hospital’s emergency room on March 17. That came after a pair of influenza tests came back negative — one at an urgent care facility and one at the ER. She said the doctor told her she wouldn’t be tested for COVID-19 since tests were limited and she was a young, healthy individual without underlying health conditions. But since the flu tests came back negative, Miles said the doctor told her COVID-19 was the only other possible diagnosis.
She was sent home under the care of her mother, Sandy, whose regular job is as a respiratory therapist and had the expertise to care for her daughter. For some people, the coronavirus causes symptoms like a fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death.
Miles said her symptoms peaked a few days after she was sent home. She said breathing was extremely difficult — she was gasping for air at some points — and even the strongest cold medicines wouldn’t help. She said a pounding headache persisted, and eating anything for a 48-hour period took far too much effort.
“I actually looked up at my mom while I was gasping for air and asked her if I was going to die,” she said.
This past week, however, Miles’ symptoms have subsided, although she’s still within the timeline of her doctor-imposed 14-day quarantine. There was also another scare within the household this past week that Sandy Miles, 51, had contracted COVID-19, and she was tested for the disease. Her test came back negative on Friday, but she was diagnosed with influenza-B, which increased the family’s quarantine period by seven days as opposed to the 14 typical of coronavirus cases.
“We were extremely relieved to hear that,” Hailey Miles said. “I would have hated to see my mom go through that, especially since Hannah is breathing on her own well.”
Meanwhile, support continues. Friends in the Dallas area have offered to bring food to the family — leaving it on the doorstep or driveway, if necessary — while other positive messages continue.
But when it comes to COVID-19, Hannah Miles’ message is clear.
“This is the most painful, scary illness ever,” she said. “This thing is super serious, and I should have taken it a lot more serious beforehand.”