Surviving COVID-19: A Story of Hope

What's it like to survive COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, shares her personal experience with COVID-19. She talks about quarantining with her family in a two-bedroom apartment, coping with her fiancé contracting COVID-19, asking friends for help and emotionally working through her diagnosis. She also offers advice based on what she learned during this experience.

Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, discusses her experience with COVID-19.
Transcript

My name is Dr. Miguelina German. I work for Montefiore Health System as a psychologist, and my experience with COVID-19 that I'm gonna share with you today is my personal journey and story, and I just want to acknowledge that as a healthcare worker, many of us have had different stories and journeys with COVID-19. And this is my story, which is a story of hope. So one day, I was at work some time in March of 2020, and I had started to feel some body aches and I started to cough, and I worked pretty late that day, and you know, by the time I got home, and I took my temperature, it had spiked to over 100 degrees. So I immediately suspected that I had COVID-19, and during the week we have a two bedroom, modest apartment with one bathroom in Manhattan, and during the week my fiance's mother stays with us to help us with our two children who are five and 12 years old, and she cooks meals for us, and you know, just is a wonderful support to our family. So she was asleep when I got home, and I immediately went to wake up my fiance, and to tell him that I suspected I had COVID-19 and that I was very, very scared for his mother's health and that we needed to get her out of the apartment immediately. And so by the time we managed to do all of that, it was probably around midnight, and he drove his mother home. She has an apartment in Brooklyn, and over the course of the next week, I was lucky that my symptoms remained mild, but it was also challenging because my fiance also works for Montefiore Health System, and so he had to continue to go to work, because March was really the peak of the crisis for Montefiore Health System. And so I was home with our children and it was really difficult to maintain social distancing rules and the quarantine guidelines suggested by the CDC. That wasn't really feasible or realistic for us in a, you know, modest, two bedroom apartment in Manhattan. And so, I coped with that reality by telling myself that our children were healthy, you know, they didn't have pre-existing conditions, that most of the statistics showed that, you know, children were not being impacted, children who had profiles like them, and I took comfort in that, and then after about 10 days I was cleared to go back to work. And then that week my fiance started to show symptoms, and unfortunately his course of COVID-19 was moderate, and that is what we're learning that COVID-19 is impacting men with more severity than women, on average, and so we had a tough couple of days where he had actually started to develop viral pneumonia. And I remember one night I was checking his vital signs every two to three hours. But his doctors were amazing, and guided us through it, and I really got through that difficult week by leaning on my support system, my friends, my family. I think the challenging part about COVID-19 is if you have family, they wanna support you, but if they're older or in those risk categories, you know, as a healthcare worker, you're not going to let them. And so my friends really were the ones I had to probably lean on the most, and I remember this one day where I was just exhausted, and I realized I didn't have enough groceries in the house, and you know, I have some pride, and it's not always easy for me to ask for help. I think it's easier when people initiate or offer help, but I think asking a friend to go food shopping for me, I had to really swallow my pride, and tell myself that I really needed the help, my family needed the help, and so I asked her if she could go food shopping, and of course she said yes, and you know, without hesitation, and you know, left the bags outside of our door. And so, you know, I think leaning on your social support group and not being too prideful to ask for help is really how we got through it, and then eventually my fiance did get better. He probably took a little over two weeks to recover, and probably was at home for almost three weeks. But he's now back at work at Montefiore Health System, and our children are attending a New York City Department of Education rec center, which is how we're able to continue to go to work, and that's our story, which is really a story of hope. The way I tried to emotionally handle my diagnosis was I asked myself first is this something that I have a lot of control over, you know, the fact that I think I probably have COVID-19? Or is something that I don't have a lot of control over, and I just have to ride it out? So I decided that it was the former. I did not have a lot of control over the fact that I had the symptoms, and I was pretty convinced that when the test came back it was going to be positive. And so, you know, there's a technique I use when I have something very stressful in my life, but I don't have a lot of control over how to fix it, or change it, and what I do is I visualize a box in my mind, and I let my mind just kind of freely flow and any worry thoughts or any images, so for example, maybe a really painful image was me in the hospital, or a really painful thought might have been something like what if my child contracts COVID-19 from me, and so I let all of those images and those thoughts that would really make me very anxious and very scared, I put them in the box. So I let them pop up in my mind, and then I visualize myself putting them in this box, and then I put the cover on the box. So for me, I visualize like a shoe box. I put the cover on nice and tight. I mentally pick up the box, and I put it in a corner of my closet. And then what I do for the rest of the day is I really try to distract myself, and these are techniques that really helped me cope emotionally, and these are techniques that I would suggest to anyone who suspects they have COVID or they do have COVID, because as we all know, it's really your own immune system that needs to combat COVID, as our doctors and scientists work really hard to find effective treatments. But for the most part, it's really your own immune system that has to fight it. And so managing your stress is important, and that's how I personally managed my time with COVID symptoms. I think when my fiance got COVID initially I coped very similarly. I visualized the box, I put my, you know, catastrophic thoughts and images into that box, and I put it in the closet, and I distracted myself, and that was working pretty well, until I realized that his course of COVID-19 was not like mine, that his was more moderate, and we had a couple of very scary days. And so I remember the day, it was a Saturday, we were coming back from urgent care where he had gotten a chest X-ray done, and the doctor called him, and told him that the chest X-ray showed that he had the beginning of viral pneumonia in his lungs. And so, that overwhelmed my coping for a couple of hours, right? In that instance, the shoe box technique was not working anymore, and so what I did is, you know, after I got him, you know, set up in the bedroom, and he had what he needed, and he was resting, and I put a movie on for the kids, I went into the bathroom and I, you know, took a shower, and I let myself cry, and I cried for a long time, probably an hour, and I just let it out, and I gave myself permission to feel as terrified as I needed to feel, to feel, you know, I had all these images in my mind of having to drop him off at the ED and not being able to go with him, of him being in ICU, and you know, I even let my mind go to the worst case scenario. And then I, you know, pulled myself out of that, and I said, okay, you know, no matter what happens, I'm gonna be there for him, I'm gonna be there for my family. I reached out to my immediate support group and I let them know what was going on with him. I let my immediate colleagues know, because in case I did have to take him to the hospital, I knew that I was gonna have to take a few days off from work, so I let everybody know that needed to know, you know, so I was kind of planning ahead for the worst case scenario. And then that didn't happen, thank goodness. That's not our story. But emotionally, I would say that was the toughest part was when he became ill, and I realized that his course wasn't going to be like mine, that it was gonna more moderate, or even severe, because at that point in time I didn't really know how his story was going to end, and I also had guilt, because I'm pretty convinced I got him sick. And you know, I'm just so grateful that he recovered and that our family story is one of survival. We feel very lucky. My best advice if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 just drawing upon my own personal experience is share it with people that you feel safe and comfortable sharing it with. Don't put a lot of pressure on yourself to tell everybody if you're not ready to do so yet. I think the other piece of advice is really use your support system, and it is not, this is not a moment to be prideful and please don't be afraid to ask for help, and I can share with everyone that there was one day in particular that was I pretty exhausted, and just feeling stretched trying to take care of myself, trying to take care of my children, and I realized we didn't have enough food in the house, and I didn't want to go food shopping, because I was quarantining, and I didn't wanna ask my fiance to go do it, because he was at work. And so I reached out to a friend who lives in our neighborhood and I asked her if she could go food shopping for us, and that was hard, you know? I had to swallow my pride a little bit. I felt a little embarrassed. But I did it, and it was so incredibly helpful. I remember that night I made dinner, and I was only really able to do it because she had gone food shopping for us, and so that's my advice. I think, you know, share the news with who you feel safe sharing the news, draw on your support system, whether that be friends, whether that be family, whether that be your faith. I think in times of crisis leaning on your different supports is critical, and that's how I got through it.

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What to Know


COVID-19: Basics

Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains what COVID-19 is, how it spreads and who is at risk. 

This video reflects the latest information available.

Wondering how to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting COVID-19? Learn prevention methods from Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Fever, sore throat, shortness of breath? Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist at Montefiore, explains.

When and how should you seek medical care? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains care at home, when to go to a hospital and testing. 

This video reflects the latest information available.

Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, shares important steps to take if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, as well as information on research and clinical trials for potential treatments Montefiore-Einstein is conducting. 

This video reflects the latest information available.

Social Distancing

How can you stay safe in and around your home? Montefiore’s Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist Dr. Theresa Madaline explains how to get in and out of your building safely and how to practice safe social distancing if you must leave home.

Is it ok to be outside? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, discusses going outside, how to exercise safely, and whether passing runners or dogs can transmit COVID-19.

How can essential workers stay safe? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains how essential workers can protect themselves at their job and take public transport safely.

Can one person make an impact? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains how social distancing works and how you can make an impact.

Protection

How should you wash your hands? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains how to wash your hands and how often.

What’s the best way to keep your home safe? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, shows how to keep your home protected and how to safely handle food and deliveries.

How do you get groceries safely? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, discusses how to shop safely for groceries.

Family Care

What if a family member gets COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains what to do if someone in your home gets sick.

What if a parent gets COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, discusses what parents or single parents should do if they get sick.

Can you get reinfected with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains what is currently known about COVID-19 immunity and the possibility of reinfection.

How do you care for an older family member who’s home alone? Montefiore’s Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains how to safely care for elderly family members during COVID-19.

Are there any extra precautions pregnant women should take regarding COVID-19? Montefiore's Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, shares ways expectant mothers can keep themselves and their unborn babies safe.

Physical Recovery

How long is a person with COVID-19 contagious? Montefiore's Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, shares the latest information on how to protect others.

Can I get re-infected with COVID-19? Montefiore's Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, shares the most current information about COVID-19 immunity and the possibility of re-infection.

What does it mean if my COVID-19 symptoms return, and what should I do? Montefiore's Dr. Theresa Madaline, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist, explains what it means if symptoms return and what to do.

 

Mental Health and Coping


Mental Health Myths

Is it normal to think about COVID-19 all the time? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why it's normal and whether to seek help.

Why am I always anxious? Do I have COVID-19? Will I lose my job? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how part of our brain works to keep us safe from something that could go wrong, and where and when to seek help for COVID-19 anxiety.

Why can’t I deal with my COVID-19 feelings on my own? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains why it’s not weak to ask for help and why you might need assistance coping with COVID-19.

I’m supposed to be providing COVID-19 help, not asking for it. Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why healthcare workers should ask for and receive COVID-19 help.

Will people judge me for seeking help for my fears and anxieties about COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains ways to overcome concerns about being judged, and why seeking support to cope during this time is perfectly fine and necessary.

I'm just too busy with family and work. How can I find time for my COVID-19 feelings? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains why finding time is important for our self-care, and recommends small things we can do to talk about our COVID-19 feelings that can fit into a busy schedule.

How can a therapist help me cope with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains the tools a therapist can provide to help you handle COVID-19, what happens in a session and what to talk about.

I’ve had therapy, and I’m not sure how it can help with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains what COVID-19 treatment looks like and which approach might work best. 

COVID-19 and Relationships

How can I best stay home with a partner? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses ways to work through the challenges of staying home with another person, as well as things to work on together.

How can I best stay home alone? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, shares tools and techniques to help single people stay home, which can help with social isolation.

How do I juggle work, life and COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses ways to maintain focus and a healthy work-life balance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and Managing Feelings

How do I manage my feelings of anger toward COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why it's normal to have strong feelings about COVID-19, how to recognize triggers and things we can do to manage anger.

How do I deal with feeling lonely in isolation? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses managing feelings of isolation during COVID-19, and how to seek help.

How do I deal with my anxiety about finances affected by COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to manage financial fears during the crisis.

How can I manage addictive behaviors during COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to avoid negative coping methods during the crisis.

How do I deal with the human toll from COVID-19 and the impact on life as we know it? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to cope with the loss of normalcy and changes in our lives as a result of the crisis.

Anxiety Busters

Taking a deep breath can help reduce anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, demonstrates ways to breathe better when feeling anxious about COVID-19.

Balancing negative thinking with positivity can help reduce anxiety about COVID-19. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, shows how making a gratitude list can spark positive thinking.

Focusing on the moment can help reduce COVID-19 anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, shares techniques for staying present during this difficult time.

Negative thoughts can create more anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides techniques to combat negative thinking during the COVID-19 crisis, including knowing the triggers and the 3 questions to ask.

Getting a good night's sleep can help combat anxiety caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides techniques for sleeping better during the pandemic.

Keeping your body active is a great way to relieve anxiety and can boost your immune system. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides ways to work in regular exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic for physical and mental health.

Essential Workers and COVID-19

Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford, explains how essential workers and their families can handle concerns arising from COVID-19 work.

Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford, explains how the family and close friends of essential workers can navigate concerns arising from their loved ones’ COVID-19 work.

As an essential worker, how can I best handle conversations about COVID-19 with my loved ones? Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford gives essential workers tips on how to have conversations about COVID-19 with loved ones.

If my loved one is an essential worker, how can I best handle sharing my concerns about COVID-19? Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford offers advice on how to communicate about COVID-19 with loved ones who are essential workers.

Surviving COVID-19

What's it like to survive COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, shares her personal experience with COVID-19. She talks about quarantining with her family in a two-bedroom apartment, coping with her fiancé contracting COVID-19, asking friends for help and emotionally working through her diagnosis. She also offers advice based on what she learned during this experience.

What happens after recovering from COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, shares her personal experience after recovering from COVID-19, and what she learned about symptoms coming back and the importance of self-care after recovery.

Who to tell about your positive COVID-19 diagnosis and when? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, discusses life living with COVID-19, how she decided which family and friends to contact and when was the right time to tell them about her positive diagnosis.

Parenting During COVID-19

How can parents talk about what's happening as a result of COVID-19 with kids of all ages? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, discusses how to help kids understand COVID-19 using techniques to encourage talking about their feelings resulting from the life changes and uncertainty they're experiencing because of the pandemic, and how parents can model coping methods to help kids make more sense of their world.

How can I help a teenager cope with the life changes and risks caused by COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, discusses ways to help teens cope with uncertainty and loss due to COVID-19, as well as taking the risks of contracting or spreading the virus seriously.

How can parents manage both their stress and the stress inflicted on their families by COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, shares techniques to help cope and manage stress in these unprecedented times.

What are red flags I should look for to know if my child needs help? Dr. Sandra Pimentel, Montefiore’s Chief Child and Adolescent Psychologist, shares advice for parents of children struggling during COVID-19 and explains what therapy looks like for children, including virtual health options.

Trusted Information Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The leading national public health institute of the United States
 

NY.gov

For the latest COVID-19 guidelines and information from New York State 

World Health Organization

UN agency responsible for international public health