Sheriff’s office employees share experience as COVID-19 patients

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CHARLESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — We told you yesterday about two Coles County Sheriff’s Office employees who have COVID-19.

One is a deputy sheriff and the other is a civilian staff member. We talked to both of them today. The deputy sheriff – Christina Stephen – has been with the sheriff’s office for 22 years. She says she started feeling symptoms on April 1. Her symptoms started as severe leg pain. She describes it as feeling like she was “hit by a Mack truck,” and says it was more intense than just normal muscle pain. She says it hurt to take a breathe because she was moving when she breathed, and her muscle pain was so deep. Stephen says she has also lost her sense of taste and smell and has experienced aches and chills. Her fever, at the highest, has been around 99 degrees.

When we asked Stephen why she wanted to get tested, she said, “There had been various symptoms from multiple coworkers over the past few weeks, simple things from stuffy nose, headaches, cough reports of low grade fevers, allergies, etc. Some of us have been to the doctor and released back to work but what hit me Wednesday going into Thursday was definitely different. I knew there were two coworkers out sick dating back from the previous week and had yet to return. I also knew one person from our agency was denied testing twice in the ER. This person’s symptoms were a bit scarier than mine as they experienced breathing difficulties. I was pretty determined I was going to get a test. I jumped through several hoops, pushing the fact that I was a first-responder and knew this was a different kind of sick. Eventually, I was scheduled to see someone at the respiratory clinic. Through conversation, regarding me and my coworkers, the doctor finally agreed it would be better to be safe than sorry and administered the test based on my first-responder status.” Eventually that test came back positive.

Stephen also explained the way she contacted the sheriff’s office about her positive test result. “I called them shortly after finding out my diagnosis… I was very clear that I wanted a day or two to kindof process and get over the shock of what I had just been diagnosed with and also to let my family and friends know. But unfortunately, that did not happen.” Her information was leaked outside of the agency within an hour. Stephen said that was not with her consent. “It was just something that, as a family, we wanted to process and then reach out to our loved ones and people I may have had close contact with prior to the general public being advised.” She says she knows who gave out her information, and she has requested an investigation.

Since that information was released, she says she has been overwhelmed with people contacting her family asking questions. Stephen says there have been some rumors that her family held a party, but that is not true. Her family has been trying to be as careful as possible.

The civilian staff member is Heather Drake. She says her symptoms started on Sunday, March 29. She woke up with a bad headache and sinus pressure.

Her symptoms have included body aches, sinus pressure, loss of smell and taste, body aches, fatigue, and a cough. Drake was tested and found out she was positive on April 8.

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