YONKERS, New York (WABC) – For a teacher and mom from Yonkers, the past month has felt like a year.
"I never thought that I would experience the world in this place where it is," said Julie Thaler. "It's like a science fiction movie."
She woke up on March 6 with flu-like symptoms and later tested positive for COVID-19.
"It was all manageable until day eight when I had a fever of 102.7, she said." It started with a cough and that started my asthma and that was pretty scary, "she said.
She isolated herself at home for weeks while her son was delivering food in the hallway and sometimes talking to her from the other side of the front door for an hour.
"You just feel lucky to be one of the survivors," said Thaler. "As miserable as I was, as sick as I was, I wasn't on a ventilator."
CDC guidelines recommend anyone who tests positive remain in isolation for at least seven days since symptoms first appeared and for at least three days since recovery. Thaler said she tripled that and stayed in isolation for 21 days and been asymptomatic for a week.
"I met all of these criteria so I went out into the world and luckily my first trip to the world was to donate blood," she said.
She went to a New York hospital to donate her blood. The antibodies in their plasma could be used to help critically ill COVID-19 patients.
The nurse took her blood and gave her a second test – a patient must test negative before becoming a plasma donor.
To Thaler's surprise, she tested positive, and the test took place three weeks after symptoms appeared.
"I worry that there are a lot of people who are not going to get that second test and they go out into the world thinking they are over the virus and immune," she said. "The truth is the virus lives in your body a lot longer than we think," she said.
She also said she received a lot of mixed messages depending on who she spoke to about her positive outcome.
"Some people said I had to isolate for two weeks, others said I had to isolate for a week, and one person said no, it just means you had COVID-19," Thaler said. "If you give me conflicting information on the phone, apologize and say this is new to us, we are not sure. That scares me. It is better to be careful."
She urges everyone to stay home and take the virus seriously. Thaler still plans to donate her plasma to patients in need, but it will now be at least another week before this is done in isolation.
"Saving a person means saving a world and what could be nicer," she said.
The CDC has issued recommendations for patients who test positive to get two negative tests before stepping out of isolation. However, this is based on whether the tests are available and what laboratory capacity is available.
In the meantime, Thaler has continued teaching her kindergarten class for self-isolation through video conferences.
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