Ronda Coger: Surviving COVID-19

Ronda Coger: Surviving COVID-19

COVID-19 comes with a lot more than just the symptoms of coughing, fever, shortness of breath, and loss of senses. This virus is robbing many people of their loved ones, causing severe anxiety and depression as people are left to fight for their lives alone, without anyone by their side. As it aggressively spreads, it has devastated several black communities – Detroit in particular.

Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN) Ambassador, Ronda Coger thought she was coming down with a cold when she experienced a sore throat. Immediately, her symptoms shifted and she knew this was more than just a cold or the flu. She had muscle aches, chills, fever, and a headache. She lost her sense of smell and taste and felt her head pulsating to the beat of her heart. The overwhelming pain made her want to throw in the towel. She had several 24-hour days without any sleep due to her anxiety.

To help bring down her anxiety, she would go out on the porch at 5:00 a.m. in the cold to breathe in the fresh air and meditate. Ronda considers herself a mentally strong person with a high pain but was very aware, with having a medical background that spans over 20 years, that she did not want to turn to opioids to cope. “You have a peak where you start to feel better, and then you go back down”, said Ronda.

COVID made Ronda question her faith. At one point during her battle, she told her family she didn’t think she was going to make it. Some of her friends who are nurses and doctors helped coach her through her symptoms. Ronda went to the hospital twice and was sent home both times.

On March 10th, she went to the emergency room but at that time, they weren’t checking for COVID-19. She waited two hours in her car to be triaged at Beaumont-Trenton but hospital personnel were looking at flu-like symptoms, and unknowingly misdiagnosed her and sent her home.

In the second week, her respiratory issues kicked in after the other symptoms subsided. She had a cough, shortness of breath and was extremely exhausted due to dehydration. With the help of her friends, she came up with a regimen that was safe for her. “This virus is unimaginable. It’s so severe, you think it’s a punishment. It made me ask the Lord what did I do to deserve this? Are you punishing me?”

During this whole pandemic, she has been personally touched by multiple tragedies, “I’ve lost many family and friends to this virus – my sister-in-law, Mix 92.3 radio personality Donafaye, and State Representative Isaac Robinson. My father, brother, and another sister-in-law, all contracted the virus at the same time.”

Though Ronda survived, she now struggles with survivor’s guilt. “We as a city, have lost so many people. My black friends became ill with me and I lost 5-6 people in a single day. I survived and they died. Some of my friends without morals, values and integrity couldn’t understand my survivor’s guilt. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful, it’s just that I lost my friends and my life will never be the same again. They were good people, just like myself - and you have evil and mean people that’s surviving and you question it.”

Ronda also battles the stigma associated with the disease and its racial disparity among black communities. It seems many of her white friends showed their concern and empathy by offering to talk to her or to lend an ear.

“In our culture, we don’t get therapy. We are taught, don’t talk, don’t tell, or don’t lay on the couch. We talk among our family members. But in 2020, I believe that stigma is breaking with the help of DWIHN.”

Ronda’s advice to others is to limit the messages you take in from the news and social media. She says her Facebook profile became an obituary, which fueled her anxiety and stress. She also wants others to know how important it is to advocate for themselves and their loved ones.

Ronda is an Ambassador with DWIHN, a peer group advocating for integrated mental health services throughout Wayne County and Michigan. She’s also a COVID-19 survivor and a humanitarian. Since her recovery, she donated her plasma to the Convalescent Plasma Donor program through the American Red Cross. If you are survivor, and would like to help others, complete this form.

“Don’t give up. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep fighting until your very last breath.”

If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call our 24/7 Access Center HelpLine at 1-800-241-4949, or call DWIHN’s Information Line at 313-989-9333.

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