A Student’s Experience with COVID-19

Published on 12 November 2020

A week and a half into her Module 2 rotation, P4 student Matea Markovic started experiencing congestion and body aches. She didn’t immediately suspect that she’d contracted COVID-19 because she didn’t know anyone with the virus and had been taking precautions. However, when her temperature started to rise the next day, she knew she had to take action.

“When I started running a fever, my preceptor recommended that I go home and stay with my parents just in case,” Markovic stated.

With her fever continuing, Markovic decided a COVID-19 test was necessary. She was able to get tested quickly but was informed that it would take several days to get results. She went to a second and third location to try to get her test results sooner. While she waited for her test results, her symptoms continued to worsen.

“My fever and body aches were much worse by day four,” Markovic explained. “Every time my fever would spike, I’d get the biggest headache of my life. It wasn’t like any pain I’ve had before. It was like a steady pressure in the center of my head. By that time, I realized that this wasn’t just a normal cold and that maybe I really did have COVID-19.”

While staying with her parents, Markovic isolated herself from her family as much as she could. Her family wore N-95 masks when they interacted with her and avoided contact as much as possible. Being at home and physically isolated took an emotional toll on Markovic, especially once she started to feel better.

“After day seven, I was feeling better, but since I hadn’t gotten my test results back yet, I couldn’t go anywhere or be around anyone,” Markovic explained. “I called all three testing sites every day to see if my results were in yet. I wanted to spend time with my family and go back to my rotation site. Finally, on day 13, I learned that my test was positive, but it was still a few days before I went back to my rotation site.”

While Markovic was dealing with her illness, Nicole Gattas, Pharm.D., FAPhA, BCPS, director of experiential education and professor of pharmacy practice, was working with Markovic’s preceptor, Brooke Stanton, Pharm.D. ’15, BCCP, pharmacy clinical specialist in cardiology at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, and other faculty to make sure that she could continue her rotations on schedule by completing some of her hours remotely.

“We had not offered remote work for rotations before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gattas explained. “Early in the pandemic, the pharmacy practice faculty developed a policy for remote work that would help students continue their rotations and gain the experience they needed to complete their studies, even if they had to be in quarantine. Working with Matea helped us figure out ways to help students during this pandemic.”

Gattas stressed the importance of communication between faculty, students and preceptors in cases such as this. She worked closely with both Markovic and her preceptor throughout the course of Markovic’s illness.

“Dr. Gattas and Dr. Stanton were calling me every day in the beginning, just to keep tabs on me and make sure I was okay,” Markovic explained. “Even when I was too tired to talk, I appreciated their concern for me. I’m grateful for the help they gave me and how they were looking out for me the whole time. This experience has shown me what a close community we have at UHSP and how much the faculty here care about us.”

Stanton worked closely with Markovic to ensure that she completed her rotation successfully by allowing her to work from home as much as she could and helping her gain crucial hands-on experience working with patients as soon as she was cleared to return.

“Matea handled herself very well, and I felt like it was my duty to help her,” Stanton explained. “Health care is always changing, and dealing with a pandemic requires creativity and flexibility from both practitioners and students. Students learn to be adaptable while on rotation, and that’s a skill that they will use throughout their careers. As a preceptor, it’s my job to be adaptable in circumstances like these.” 

To provide further support, Markovic’s preceptor for her Module 3 rotation, Amy Tiemeier, Pharm.D ’02, BCPS, director of community partnerships, associate director of experiential education and associate professor of pharmacy practice, gave Markovic an extra week to complete her Module 2 rotation to make up the time she had lost in the beginning of her illness.

Markovic hopes that sharing her story will help others understand the severity of COVID-19 and take all necessary precautions to avoid getting or spreading the disease. Fortunately, the precautions that her family took, such as wearing masks and gloves and keeping Markovic isolated, meant that no one else in her family developed COVID-19.

“I’m young and healthy, and still, I could barely care for myself for days,” Markovic explained. “No one is invulnerable to this disease, and we all need to do what we can to protect each other.”

Visit uhsp.edu/covid19 to learn more about the University’s ongoing COVID-19 response.

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