When the unexpected happens

Anna Grace Miller, 17, recalls thinking things seemed 'normal' around town until she began showing unusual symptoms she originally dismissed.

Fort Payne High School senior Anna Grace Miller, 17, shares her experience with COVID-19 from a teen's perspective.

“When COVID-19 cases started appearing in the US, I remember discussing it in my biology class. My professor told us as long as we used basic hygiene, we should be fine and that was it,” said Miller.

Following the rising cases in the US, the shelter-in-place was issued for Alabama. Miller said the day she found out all her classes would be online, she had “mixed emotions.”

“On one hand I was glad to move to online classes because I knew my professors would make the courses a little easier, but on the other hand, I loved the passion my professors had for teaching, and I knew I would miss the face to face interactions with my fellow classmates,” she said.

Miller is also enrolled full-time at Northeast Alabama Community College through the early college program.

“After completing finals, I was glad to be done with school. I was looking forward to summer but it was still so strange because there were so many restrictions in place,” said Miller.

She remembers hearing about how the numbers of cases in the US were rising exponentially daily. However, in Fort Payne, life “seemed to be somewhat normal.”

“The cases were few and not everyone wore masks. But I will say the toilet paper shortage was definitely not normal,” Miller said.

Fast forward a few months, the “Stay at Home” orders were lifted, and life was finally getting back to normal for Miller or so she thought.

“Since I figured there was no possible way I could get COVID-19, I ignored my symptoms until it was too late,” said Miller.

She recalls noticing initial signs when working out. She felt more out of breath than usual.

“I felt weak and sluggish,” Miller said.

According to Miller, a few days before Memorial Day, she noticed she couldn’t taste or smell.

“Thinking I had a cold, I took some allergy medicine, but I had a feeling something was up because the medicine did nothing at all,” she said.

Miller said her father was talking to a friend who told him about a teenager with the coronavirus whose only symptoms were no taste and smell.

“I couldn’t believe it, but the next day I was tested and who would have thought, I was positive for COVID-19,” she said.

She said when she first found out, she felt terrible.

“I started thinking about everyone I had just seen for Memorial Day, the friends I had been with and of course, my family. I had exposed all of them,” said Miller.

After her diagnosis, Miller was quarantined for two weeks. She said her family is “very loving and supportive,” so they made the best of it. However, two weeks goes by a lot slower when the only thing to do is rest and complete summer classes.

“Since there is no cure for the virus, I took an antibiotic to prevent anything else and breathing treatments, which was a lifesaver since breathing was hard at times,” Miller said.

According to Miller, although her two weeks in quarantine are over, she is still unable to taste or smell.

“I hope I am able to smell soon because trust me, three weeks without tasting food is no fun,” she said.

Through her coronavirus experience, Miller said she has learned that many people, including herself, underestimated the virus.

“For me, I thought since I am living in a small town, I would never get COVID-19 because people only get it in big cities, but boy, I was wrong,” she said.

Miller encourages everyone to wear a mask, especially since you can have the virus for two weeks without showing any symptoms or being a carrier.

“Even though summer is here and life is moving on, there are still cases every day, so I encourage everyone to still be cautious,” she said.

Washing your hands or using sanitizer, staying six feet apart and wearing a mask when you’re out and about are precautions Miller encourages.

Her experience has also taught her how important it is to have a community and friends.

“My church sent meals every day, and I received so many encouraging letters and texts from friends and people from town,” said Miller.

She said she learned how checking on people and being kind means so much and often takes little time.

“The love I received meant so much and inspired me to continue it. Through hard times, our true character is shown and I know our community has risen to the challenge and shown so much love,” Miller said.

She said she wouldn’t change having COVID-19 because she has learned so much and hopes others can learn from her experience as well.

– Times-Journal Staff Writer Cinthia Rico contributed to this article.

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