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WaPo’s tales of the weird: Woman claims seven weeks on her back with coronavirus–but nobody cares. Bonus: bizarre photo of her taken by “family” even though she’s in isolation ward

May 11, 2020
DarleneKrawetz.jpg
Photo: Washington Post
My big question about this May 10 Washington Post front-page first-person narrative by Darlene Krawetz, a Syracuse, N.Y., woman who says she’s had coronavirus for seven straight weeks, is: What the hell is going on with the above photo?

The WaPo caption says: “Darlene Krawetz in a Syracuse, N.Y. Hospital in April.” The credit is “Family Photo.”

Huh? First of all, how did the “family” get into the hospital room of a Covid-19 patient? Aren’t the patients, highly infectious, kept strictly isolated from family and friends–to the point where many are tragically dying alone?

Second issue, the hair. What is it doing under her oxygen mask? Yes, long hair is undoubtedly a problem for sick people and those caring for them, but wouldn’t hospital personnel know how to keep it out of someone’s face so she can breathe? Braids, a bun, or something?

Also, I can’t help pointing out that the brunette Darlene Krawetz in this hospital photo looks nothing like the blonde Darlene Krawetz whose photo (reportedly from Facebook) also accompanies the WaPo story (click this link to see what I mean).

Then there’s the story of Krawetz’s seven-week bout with a virus that usually takes two weeks to recover from, although some recoveries take as long as six weeks:

Here’s Krawetz’s narrative of what went wrong, as told to WaPo reporter Eli Saslow:

I’ve hardly moved from this couch in weeks, but right now my heart rate monitor says I’m at 132. That’s double my normal. That’s like if I’m climbing a mountain. How come? Nobody knows. Nobody ever knows. And why has my fever been spiking again? Do I need to go back to the ER? I’m on week six of this crap, and I still don’t know if I’m getting better or worse, but people want to act like the threat is behind us?

Wait, no, that’s not right. This is actually week eight for me. I started getting symptoms right before New York shut down. I mix up my dates. My mind is all foggy. I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, and now I can’t even remember if my last Tylenol was five minutes or five hours ago. It feels like electricity is burning through my spine, and nobody can tell me why. It’s like I’m sucking air through a straw. When I stand up, my ears start ringing until dizziness forces me back down.

Racing heart, brain fog, electricity burning through spine, ringing ears, dizziness. Odd symptoms for coronavirus, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control. But the lack of oxygen does fit in.

I didn’t use to be like this. I’m healthy. I’m a vegetarian. I’m only 52.

And there’s no doubt that she indeed contracted the virus:

Then, after I tested positive, I thought I’d get a mild case. I told my husband: “Relax. I’m fine.” I don’t have diabetes. I don’t have hypertension, COPD or anything like that. I thought I could stay home, take care of myself and be back at work in a few weeks.

Right away I started running a temperature of 103, and the Tylenol couldn’t control it. I was shaking and cursing all day in bed, and the symptoms spread from there. I was head-to-toe exhausted. I wanted the whole world to let me alone. I had equipment at home from my nursing work, and I started checking my vitals and saw my blood pressure shooting up. I’ve never had that. I’d get up to shower and start gasping for air. My son was also covid-positive, and he ran a high fever and recovered within a week while I kept on getting worse. Maybe because I’m older? Or because I used to be a smoker? You can’t get a definitive answer on anything with this. I started coughing to the point of throwing up.

But also, this:

I had headaches. Migraines. Heartburn. Rashes. I lost 16 pounds in the first few weeks. I would lie down at night after taking melatonin and Benadryl, soaked in sweat and terrified of what might be coming next. What if I fall asleep and stop breathing? More Benadryl. More melatonin. Maybe try a Xanax.

Xanax–for coronavirus?

I’m not sure I can handle it again if I have to go back to the hospital. That first stay lasted 10 days, or at least that’s what they told me. I couldn’t tell days apart. I had a little glass isolation room with a curtain they kept closed….

They gave me a malaria drug, but it did absolutely nothing. They gave me an antibiotic for pneumonia, but I still couldn’t breathe without 15 liters of oxygen. They tried vitamin C, magnesium, shots of blood thinner, baby aspirin, Tums, multivitamins, Xanax, cough syrup with codeine. It was like fixing a car when you don’t know what’s broken. They gave me inhalers and breathing exercises to do every hour, but my oxygen level kept dropping….

And there’s also a certain lack of sympathy from the neighbors:

I watch the news and check my vitals, but they’re always bad. My family stands in the doorway to visit sometimes, and other people text or call. “Are you feeling better yet?” It’s like they’re becoming impatient. They want to feel safe going out. We managed to buckle down for a while, but now it’s getting nice outside, and people need to work. The deniers and the protesters are coming out. One of my relatives went on Facebook and wrote that this whole virus is overblown, or maybe even a hoax. People want to minimize.

“Are you better yet? Why aren’t you better yet?”…

Finally, on May 7:

I’m back at the hospital.

My fever won’t come down. The doctors say I have blood clots on my lungs and a mass on one of my organs. They’re trying to figure it out. There’s no timeline and no prognosis. All I know is they’re admitting me. I’ve been crying my eyes out. The morphine is making me in a fog.

Well, I wish a speedy recovery for Darlene Krawetz, whatever she has, because she is awfully sick, and my best wishes also go to her family. But you’ve got to hand it to the WaPo for running the strangest coronavirus story to hit the media so far.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

13 Comments
  1. M.Droney permalink

    Mrs Allen,

    As an award winning journalist, per your bio in this blog, your 2 big takeaways are where did the photo come from, how was family in there, and why is her hair in her mask?? Utter nonsense and a poor attempt at news bashing. First off, I’m not a WP or NYT guy, I’m a middle ground conservative with my own catholic beliefs, but that’s just for a little perspective on my views before you label me. Its shameful that your shortsighted views of “how and when” lead you to write this article. From an outsider’s perspective, it would appear you been ostracized from your earlier writing days and really are just posting this story against the WP. But to use this ladies story for your narrative is shameful. Anyone with a level commonsense could simply come to the conclusion she took a selfie, and could care less what her hair looked like. After all, her story is a 1st person narrative correct??? Am I wrong here?? If so, I’m sorry I suppose, still a horrible take from your position. Then, your final paragraph is like a backhanded slap of support for her after you’ve finished your impetuous points. (I never comment on odd ball blogs, but felt the need to express a real opinion here….God Bless you in the future and your choices of stories to share your wealth of experience on).

    • A selfie? How could she have taken a selfie in that position (blankets covering shoulders and arms apparently at her side)? I mentioned her hair, not to criticize a sick person for looking disheveled but to point out that the strands of hair all over her face were under her oxygen mask. Surely that interferes with breathing, which is of paramount importance to coronavirus victims. It’s fair to wonder about the circumstances under which that photo was taken and how it made its way into the Washington Post. I’m sure that Darlene Krawetz is suffering (probably from many things besides coronavirus, but that narrative and photo are pandemic porn.

      • kathy fleming permalink

        looks exactly like a selfie to me.

      • Cathy Smith permalink

        That’s not a blanket covering her arms and shoulders. That’s her johnnie. Her arms are clearly bent at her elbows and she’s taking a selfie. What exactly do you expect her or the nursing staff to use to put her hair back? Are you donating hair elastics to local hospitals? The gift shops in hospitals are closed. You can’t obtain them. And once staff is gowned you in ppe you can’t go grab one from your locker. She’s clearly restless and uncomfortable and that’s why her hair is like that. It isn’t interfering with the mask. All the symptoms she’s describing are routinely seen in covid patients including the shooting back pain. I know because I’m a nurse working on a covid unit.
        As for you and your “expertise” on this matter.. I’m just guessing you’re some miserable troll who is making up assumptions about medical info and facts that you HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT. Leave this poor woman alone, and go do some good in this world instead of spreading your miserable vibes.

      • We’re seeing two different photos. Whatever is over her does not look like a hospital gown, and I don’t see bent elbows–or any other part of her arms in the photo. Re her hair: She couldn’t be the first long-haired patient admitted into a hospital, and it would seem rather negligent for personnel to let a patient’s hair fly all over the place, including under her oxygen mask. What exactly do nurses do about long hair in the covid ward where you work?

  2. Michelle Grendzinski permalink

    Author of this blog raises all kind of skeptic questions about the article, but somehow doesn’t apply her critical thinking skills to the understanding that most people don’t naturally have light blonde hair, and dyeing it to be that way is a thing. Darlene Krawertz as shown in the hospital photo also dyes her hair, this time purplish red with with–shocker!–about two months worth of brown and gray grown-out roots.

    Also, we don’t know if she is actually in isolation from her family, especially if the picture was taken by her son, who already had Covid-19, too. It could be “family photo” even if the hospital staff took it, say, on her own phone. And we don’t know that she’s still actively positive for coronavirus. Some of the lingering effects of coronavirus are are reportedly inflammatory and post-viral.

    As for why there’s hair in her mask, yes, she needs some help to tidy up. But she’s also not wearing a sealed, pressurized mask that requires a clean seal. The mask itself is perforated (perhaps an OxyMask Plus OP-1125-8). The mask is there to deliver more concentrated oxygen right in front of her nose and mouth, but the mask is not sealed. Hair under the edges of it would have no impact on its effectiveness.

    You looked closely at the photo, but apparently, not closely enough.

  3. I did look pretty closely at both photos. True, Ms. Krawetz may not be a natural blonde–but the differences in hair color (I did notice the purple dye in the hospital photo) are only the beginning: the women in the two photos don’t look alike at all. Perhaps the “blonde” photo is very old–but shouldn’t readers of the Washington Post be told that they’re looking at a 20- or 30-year old photo right on the front page of someone who is actually in her 50s and looks completely different?

    As for who took the photo, the caption says that it was taken at a hospital in Syracuse in April. Even if her son, a teen-ager, had recovered from his bout with Covid-19 in April, it’s hard to believe that any hospital would have let a minor into a room with an infectious patient. Maybe the photo was indeed taken by hospital staff with Ms. Krawetz’s phone. That’s quite an intriguing use of staff time and resources during a pandemic when medical personnel are working overtime, Furthermore, what exactly would have been the point of photographing a patient clearly in dire straits whose eyes are barely open? I’m just curious about the motivations all around.

  4. Terri Rader permalink

    Ms. Allen, Get over it! Why are you so very critical of a extremely ill person trying to record thoughts and activities? Perhaps she takes Xanax regularly or has in the past? If I had her symptoms I’d try anything I could find to get relief. Who are you to question? In fact, you wouldn’t be questioning anything she has gone through if you’d ever had these symptoms together at one time. Get off your high horse!

  5. Gail Bargerstock permalink

    Our daughter, Darlene Krawetz, died this morning. You no longer have to cast aspersions against the reality of her illness or start in on her death. Some of you are so interested in your own evaluation of her illness, your unkindness becomes legendary. You are despicable.

  6. Shannon Savage permalink

    Charlotte allen she did have covid 19 what her nor her doctors knew at the time she posted this was that she had stage 4 cancer and she passed on may 28th just thought you should know

    • Her mother informed me that she had died. She obviously had something more than coronoavirus, and it seems rather odd that her doctors weren’t aware of that after two hospitalizations. There would seem to be at least an issue of medical malpractice. The Washington Post should never have featured her as a coronavirus poster child.

  7. Deanne permalink

    You should be ashamed to publish this. Darlene was a dedicated, compassionate nurse who was respected by her friends and colleagues. I hope that you will never know the pain that she went through and hope that her chronical makes people see what this virus can do. Darlene died 5/28 after her long battle with the virus and she is at peace now. I hope you can live with yourself and your “opinions”.

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