37-year-old COVID-19 victim posted updates on Facebook until her death

Florida: COVID-19 has claimed over 146,000 lives worldwide so far. With America leading by far in the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, the total number of global cases is swiftly rising and is now well over 2.1 million. Social media is full of experiences and stories from frontline workers, carers and most importantly, COVID-19 positive patients.

PJ McClelland, a 37-year-old based in Florida was one such patient and was diagnosed with the disease late March. She decided to post details of her diagnosis, experience and treatment on Facebook which slowly went viral. On April 11, her family told media outlets and her growing following that McClelland died following COVID-19 complications. We compiled excerpts from her experience and her ‘battle with the beast’.

I’m getting sicker by the day. It feels like I have a migraine, bronchitis, and the flu all at once.
– PJ McClelland on her Facebook post on April 2
McClelland posted her first update on April 2, Thursday. However, it has been reported that she was diagnosed late March. From the posts and the date stamps, McClelland may have been diagnosed on March 27.

The first post detailed how McClelland contacted the hospital following a fever. However, while on call with the hospital, McClelland reported chest pain and shortness of breath. She was picked up by emergency officials who transported her to the hospital where she was isolated.

“A few actual things said to my by my nurse and doctor last night:

Nurse: Where’s your IV?

Me: I don’t have one? The EMT said they can’t provide any medical care.

Nurse: Great! Now I’m gonna get it!

Doctor: What exactly is it that you want us to do for you, ma’am?

Me: I would like you to keep me alive.” McClelland wrote in her post.

She commented on the fact that she was one of the first confirmed cases at the hospital but none of the medical professionals who attended to her wore N95 masks. McClelland was prescribed antibiotics and sent home.

McClelland continued to chronicle her experience and the ‘battle with the beast’. She talked about extreme shortness of breath and ‘non-stop’ coughing. McClelland said in her post that she had asked the doctor about HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) which has been touted as a ‘gamechanger’ by US president Donald Trump and has been approved by several governments for use on extremely severe COVID-19 cases. However, McClelland did not qualify for the treatement at that point.

Don’t worry about me. I’m relatively young and healthy. Worry about the people I’ve been around who are EXTREMELY high risk. It breaks my heart to think I may have given this to them.
– PJ McClelland
McClelland admitted in one of her posts thats she was a heavy smoker. She added,”For the myriad people who have asked/yelled, I haven’t quite [quit] smoking entirely, but I’m down to 10 a day. Before I got sick, I was averaging about 40. I’m counting this as a victory.”

McClelland’s family told a local media outlet that other than a recently diagnosed sleep apnea, McClelland had no underlying health issues.

On Day 15, McClelland posted that her lung capacity was back to 75 per cent. Following this, she updated her followers about ‘night terrors’ that she had along with episodes of non-stop coughing and shortness of breath.

McClelland wrote: “For what seemed like an eternity, but was actually a couple of hours, I coughed nonstop. Literally. I couldn’t breathe. Like barely at all. Just a gasp between coughing here and there. I was having a panic attack the entire time. My hands were tingling and I lost my peripheral vision.”

Following one night of this, the doctor recommended McClelland call 911 [emergency] in any repeat scenarios. He suspected she had pneumonia and wanted her to get more tests done, the post added.

On her final post on April 9, McClelland said, “I can safely say this has been the longest, and some of the worst, three weeks of my life. BUT I only have 1-3 more weeks to go of batting the #beast. Then up to 6 more weeks of quarantine.” That was also the day she was planning to go in for more blood work, X-rays at a lab the doctor recommended.

According to media reports and comments on her page, McClelland died two days later, on April 11.

Her Facebook posts are being shared widely, On her last post, there are 517 comments, mostly from people she did not know in real life. The post has been shared over 1,500 times.

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