LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Noelle Lefforge is on the other side of COVID-19.
"As someone who is relatively healthy, the fact that it hit me so hard and I got so sick from it makes it unimaginable to me [for] somebody who's in a more vulnerable health position and what they're susceptible to," Lefforge told 13 Action News.
The 39-year-old clinical professor and assistant professor-in-residence at UNLV says she likely contracted the virus while attending work conferences in New York and DC in late February into early March.
"Everyone was relatively careful at the conference," she said. "I was washing my hands way more than I've ever washed them before. We knew enough at that point that everyone was taking precautions."
Even with proper precautions, Lefforge says the day after returning home, she started feeling sick.
"It still didn't seem likely at that point that it was the coronavirus," she said.
That was until people she'd come in contact with began testing positive.
"There was a Listserv [emaill list] for the conference I was at in New York and people started posting: 'I have it, I tested positive.,'" she said. "And so to know that I had still gotten sick even though I was more cautious health-wise than I've ever been, it was like, 'man this stuff can spread.'"
For more than a week, Lefforge's symptoms varied from fever, fatigue and muscle aches and pains to digestive issues, loss of appetite and sense of smell. Nine days in, she said she took a turn for the worse.
"The scariest it got was that Friday morning, March 20th," she said.
"Talking to my husband, he was like, 'you're not good.' My voice was weak, I felt super shaky but I still couldn't manage to eat, really," said Lefforge. "I just wanted to sleep. I was so not doing well."
"Even trying to call the health center," she explained, "I was like, 'you're going to have to call - I can't, I can't do this right now.'"
Her husband took her to the Faculty Treatment Center at UNLV, where she saw firsthand what doctors and nurses needed to provide care during this pandemic.
"In order for anyone to see me, they had to have on a full apron cover, they had to have on a mask, they had to have on a face shield. I completely get that they needed all that protection. I had a mask on and I was still worried about potentially infecting them."
Understanding just how contagious this disease is and how severe it can be, Lefforge said she hopes everyone takes this seriously.
"Even being, with all the privileges I have like kind of scared to go in to see a health care provider and seeing how few resources they had, even to treat me in my case wasn't one of these severe cases. I think that that's terrifying and if we want to leave the capacity for the people who need it the most, everyone has to take this incredibly seriously."
Lefforge was quarantined for 14 days along with her husband and two children. And although she's thankful her family hasn't shown symptoms, she said she still worries.
"I think that's one thing that's hard to continue to sit with is how many people did I expose during that time that I just didn't know any better? And you know, I hope that at this point we know enough that 'I didn't know any better' can be taken off the table."