'Couldn't catch my breath': Minnesota woman, 40, describes COVID-19 experience in ICU

A Minnesota woman is speaking out about COVID-19 after she ended up in the ICU.

Melissa is 40 years old and has no pre-existing conditions. Yet, after COVID-19 sent her to the ICU, she's still fighting to breathe.

Waking up in the middle of the night convulsing for air, Melissa described what it's like to suffer from COVID-19.

“They woke me up in the middle of the night because my oxygen dropped down to like 77,” she said.

Melissa has been at the Mayo Clinic's hospital for a week now and was admitted to the intensive care unit over the weekend as her oxygen levels plummeted. She's back on the regular COVID-19 floor now, but she's still in rough shape, regularly stopping to breathe and cough.

Melissa said doctors have tried all sorts of treatment to help her - even the convalescent plasma injection.

“The next morning, I felt great; I didn’t have a fever and I felt wonderful, I felt like a different person,” she said. “But by the end of the day, I was worse off than I was the day before.”

Melissa’s symptoms started last month while she was at work, as a therapist.

“I was trying to talk with my co-worker and I realized I couldn’t catch my breath to say a whole sentence and I thought to myself, ‘Man, I’m not that out of shape, I do this walk three times a day this is not normal.’”

She said she tried to get tested several times, but was told to self-isolate at home, which she did. She started to feel better, but then in early April she hit rock bottom.

Melissa and her best friend, Stacy, want people to understand the severity of this virus.

“It’s just been heartbreaking and to see people denying these issues and wanting to open back up," Stacy said.

"It’s dangerous and irresponsible,” Melissa added.

She also wants to tell Minnesotans to not let their guards down yet when it comes to wearing masks and staying home.

“We need to make sure we have all the precautions in place for our healthcare staff and for the people that get sick because if all the beds are full then people like me would have been already dead,” she said.

Melissa said the hardest part in fighting this virus is that she'll start to feel better and do something simple, like take a shower, then feel awful again because it uses up so much energy. She thinks she'll be at the Mayo Clinic for another week before hopefully she can fully recover at home.