Kate Throneburg slowly rolled her car to a stop in a Charlotte parking lot. She lowered the window.
Dr. Genevieve Brauning, a family medicine physician at Novant Health SouthPark Family Physicians, approached, wearing full protective gear. Throneburg, 31, leaned toward the steering wheel as Brauning reached through the window and checked her breathing. The mobile exam was underway.
A few days later, Throneburg learned she had COVID-19, the coronavirus sweeping the country.
“I was surprised because Dr. Brauning didn’t think so either, at first,” said Throneburg, a Charlotte native. “I wasn’t presenting as most were.”
While initial reports around COVID-19 led many to believe that young people had little cause to worry about the coronavirus, as of March 22, nearly half of all cases in Mecklenburg County were aged 20 to 39. Throneburg was one of them.
How she got there
Throneburg, a business development manager, knew she was more at risk because she has asthma. But her symptoms began with nausea and upset stomach. She felt fatigued, had a cough, headache and aching throughout her body.
“I’d had the flu two weeks before,” she said. “Maybe I hadn’t gotten over it.”
At first her temperature registered 99.8 degrees. Then 100, and 101.2.
“I called the clinic and asked if I should come in,” Throneburg said.
Drive on by, we’ll test you, the doctors told her.
While she waited five days for the confirmation of COVID-19, Throneburg said she “fully rested,” alternating DayQuil and NyQuil to battle her symptoms.
Eventually, Throneburg’s pains dwindled to just a cough.
“But it took nine days to get my taste and smell back,” she said.
She followed correct procedure
Throneburg was among the early wave of patients in Charlotte to be tested.
“Kudos to her; she reached out to us through MyChart messaging and asked ‘in light of everything going on, I want your advice on whether I should come into the office,’” Brauning said. “I can’t stress enough how important having that conversation is, instead of getting online and scheduling an appointment. If you come for an appointment that wasn’t necessary, you are wasting the personal protective equipment that we have to use in order to evaluate you. We really want to limit that.”
“Kate did the perfect thing by reaching out. That decision wasn’t clear-cut on the medical end. We spent about two days talking back and forth about the evolution of her symptoms.”
Because of Throneburg’s underlying asthma, Brauning thought it best that she be tested.
“Asthma is definitely something that would increase your risk if you acquired COVID-19,” she said. “Kate did things the right way, exactly what I would encourage any patient of any age to do. Reach out and we can guide you in the right direction.”
Mixed reactions from neighbors
Throneburg endured the physical battles of COVID-19, but didn’t expect some of the societal reaction she received. While recovering at her apartment, twice she was confronted while taking her dog Birdie out to relieve herself. Throneburg was wearing a mask. Her walks with the dog didn’t leave the apartment parking lot.
The passersby said things like: Take your dog somewhere else, and you’re putting everyone in this community at risk.
Throneburg had taken measures to avoid contact. She avoided common areas. She didn’t go to the mailbox. She didn’t use the laundry room, instead washing clothes in her bathtub.
Still, the reaction of others weighed on her mind. But, one neighbor slipped a note under Throneburg’s door that read, “Let me know if you need anything,” and volunteered to bring packages to the door.
Another neighbor was helpful in communicating accurate information about COVID-19 and patient rights to the property management company, for it to email out to residents who were concerned. The good didn’t outweigh the bad, overall.
“Dealing with people has been worse than coronavirus,” she said. “It’s been extremely frustrating. But I’ve received tons of encouragement on social media. I will get over this.”
Novant Health team members are on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Novant Health Foundation has established a new fund dedicated to supporting our teams, as well as the overall response to the pandemic. Contributions will support team members and help fund testing and medication to support patient care, as well as medical supplies. To donate, click here.