Photo: Tina Krietlow and Martin Palicki during DEAL 2019 in front of Atlantis The Palm, Dubai
by Martin Palicki
As someone who regularly works from home, I find it easy to become disengaged from the reality of this pandemic. Aside from not getting in my car to go to the gym or visit friends and family, my daily life – so far – has not been terribly different.
I’ve been steadfastly adhering to distancing guidelines and voraciously reading updates about the virus on a daily basis. Along with InPark’s core team of Judith Rubin and Joe Kleiman, I have been reporting on how the coronavirus is impacting our industry, our businesses, and our colleagues. Still, the reality of the situation has felt distant and almost unreal.
That changed yesterday.
InPark correspondent Tina Kreitlow posted on social media that she had contracted COVID-19 and shared her harrowing experience in and out of the healthcare system. For the time being, the worst appears to be behind her and all are hopeful she will make a full recovery.
While not many InPark readers have met Tina, she reported on Efteling’s Symbolica attraction when it opened in 2017 and also accompanied me on a trip to Dubai last year for the DEAL trade show. She has two children and heads up a park & recreation department here in Wisconsin.
At InPark we made a conscious decision a few weeks ago to look for positive stories in this crisis and highlight ways the industry is coming together. But it’s also important to recognize the human impact of the virus, and that it isn’t something that is happening to “someone else.”
So it is with Tina’s permission that we share with you excerpts from her story in order to remind us of the reality of the situation we are facing, and the importance of prioritizing health and wellness.
The entire InPark team wishes Tina a speedy recovery, good health for her family, and many great days ahead.
Two weeks ago I started feeling under the weather and thought it was just allergies. Then I ended up being off work March 17-18 with what felt like flu-like symptoms. I went back to work not feeling 100% but kept safe distances from everyone. By Saturday things had progressed to the point where I called the COVID symptom hotline. When I got a call back from the second nurse, the first words out of her mouth were “I can hear you’re short of breath, when was the last time you took your inhaler?” Anyone who knows me, knows I am in denial about really having asthma! The nurse proceeded to yell at me for the next 10 minutes about making sure I take my inhaler, without fail, every 4 hours. So I did on Saturday and Sunday. Along with treating for the constant fever, I had complete lethargy, shortness of breath, fever and a cough.
Monday, March 23 I called my doctor since my overnight temperature had spiked to 103.6 for hours, and this is while on Tylenol! Over the course of 3 conversations, she was convinced that I was COVID positive and said if my temperature gets that high again or if I continue to have shortness of breath and the inhaler doesn’t help, head to the ER.
Tuesday morning I woke up completely non-functional. I could barely walk, couldn’t breathe and had reached a temperature of 104.3. I told Rebecca I thought it was time to go to the hospital. Upon arriving I could barely get into the hospital and the worst part was that Rebecca could not even walk me in…she had to leave me at the door to navigate this horribly scary situation on my own, barely able to speak or walk. Once I checked in they told me to go down the hall and just wait to be called. As I sat in this empty COVID triage hallway, with no one around, I thought, I’m not sure I’m gonna make it.
Once in the triage area, it was a converted conference room area where the staff took every precaution possible for self protection. It was like a scene out of a movie where staff had on self ventilating “hazmat-like” suits and me, dripping gross sweat hardly functional. Once taking my vitals and administering the COVID test (which is a horribly uncomfortable test), I was moved to an ER room. Here they got me on a heart monitor- that they couldn’t get a read out from because of my dripping sweat, had to use an ultrasound to find a vein for an IV and began running one test after another to rule out all other possible options. They brought an X-ray machine in for a chest X-ray. After a couple of hours, with blood work and X-ray results, it was determined that all other results came back negative and that my blood work was consistent with other COVID positive results. The X-ray did show pneumonia, although the pneumonia blood test came back negative. I was then put on IV antibiotics.
Because of the likelihood of COVID, I was moved to an isolation room to monitor breathing and fever for what ended up being 4 days! These 4 days were extremely lonely, terrifying and uncertain. By day 3 I was throwing myself a pity party for one – mostly because I thought I would have been feeling better by then but it seemed like my lung function was declining instead of getting better.
Throughout my stay at the hospital: spikes in fever, supplementary oxygen, nightly shots in the stomach to avoid blood clots, 5:00am blood draws, two sets of painful IV antibiotics daily, learning all the machine buttons to press for some minimal self-care when alarms go off so staff didn’t have to come into the room as frequently, and pure loneliness just about sums up my bout with this virus.
I am now home, weak and very tired. Lung function is getting better but I have this horrible fear that something could still go wrong with this unknown virus. I will be forever traumatized by this experience. Even now, being at home, I find myself periodically crying for no particular reason other than fear. This virus is not only physically devastating but emotionally as well because there are so many unknowns.
My doctor said he tried to get me on the malaria cocktail for treatment but I didn’t qualify because my symptoms weren’t “bad enough.” I know people are worse off than I was, but my gosh, my illness from this virus was pretty darn serious. We are seeing that decisions are already having to be made about who gets treated and who doesn’t and we haven’t even reached the pinnacle of this in Wisconsin yet.
I will survive COVID19 but please protect your loved ones and keep them from getting this virus. It is no joke…every aspect of it sucks. Just sucks.Tina Kreitlow
I will say, however, kudos to all of the staff and medical professionals at [Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in] Milwaukee. I witnessed pure vigilance in safety protocols…they were great – and really kept very positive and encouraging throughout my stay!
Now my 14 day quarantine begins!!