(Editor’s note: Laura Heller, a civilian attorney at the Fort Leonard Wood Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, and Reservist major with the 8th Legal Operations Detachment in Independence, Missouri, is currently recovering from COVID-19 in isolation. She has agreed to share her recovery story with the GUIDON.)
Since March 15, when Laura Heller was placed in isolation for COVID-19 symptoms, the only face-to-face contact she’s had is with her two dogs, Pearl and Sami. However, the support she has received from friends and neighbors – along with a positive attitude and sense of humor – has been a huge help in getting her through this challenging time.
“I think that a lot of credit should go to the Army’s ongoing resiliency training,” she said. “I’ve made my way through some very challenging times while remaining optimistic and of relatively good cheer.”
Heller said her neighbors – some of whom she hasn’t had the chance to meet in person yet – along with coworkers, have been especially helpful.
“My neighbors have been fantastic,” she said. “They’ve been dropping off groceries, bottled water, toilet paper and dog treats on the porch – whatever I need. I wave through the closed front window and retrieve the items when they leave.”
She said her boss, Col. Christopher Burgess, Fort Leonard Wood Staff Judge Advocate, brought groceries to her home this past Friday.
“I finally had the opportunity to dive into cinnamon graham crackers that I had been thinking about for a few weeks,” she said.
Heller said that humor has been an important coping mechanism in getting through her isolation.
“Joking with friends and family has helped remind them that my illness is, fortunately, only moderate and that I will recover with time,” she said. “I know that it’s been especially hard on my mother and my partner, who are close to 1,700 miles away and unable to be with me during this time. Making light of my condition and related hurdles has also helped me to cope and relieve stress.”
Heller said her online friends have also been a great source of support.
“My illness prompted dozens of messages, texts, emails and phone calls every day,” she said. “I felt it was important to answer each one personally, however many days later, because so many people seemed to care so much.”
Heller said that while she is unable to leave her home, she still manages to take full advantage of the nice Spring weather.
“While I remain on isolation from my community – the front door and beyond – I am free to head out into my fenced backyard and toss the ball with my dogs throughout the day,” she said. “My stamina is noticeably reduced by shortness of breath, but watching Sami and Pearl run around and enjoy the sunshine makes me smile.”
She said she’s also set a goal when her status is changed to recovered to repay the kindnesses she’s received while in isolation.
“Several hospitals across the country are using plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat those who are most gravely ill,” she said. “I’d like to help those who are actively battling this illness.”
Heller said that people need to help one another to get through this, and that no one should be afraid to ask for help.
“That’s one of the hardest things to do for most,” she said. “But helping each other is one of the ways we’re going to get through this as a nation. The other way is by staying at home.”
Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should call the Harper Screening Facility at 573.596.3663.