HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – It came on during a slow afternoon in her home office in early April.
She suddenly felt the blood drain from her face and her chest began to convulse. A glance down at her smart watch showed her heartrate at 210 beats per minute, and climbing.
“You think you’re healthy and doing everything right until something happens that could change everything,” said 1st. Lt. Amanda Smies, a senior engineer at the Quick Reaction Capability Branch here.
Smies was rushed to the emergency room, where she was confirmed positive with COVID-19. She had been completely asymptomatic until that point.
Smies describes herself as active and healthy, with no underlying conditions that would have made her any more susceptible to COVID. She always wore a mask, washed her hands, and kept a social distance from those outside her immediate family.
She had even received her first dose of the vaccine two weeks before.
“I thought that even if I did get it, I would be fine,” said the Milwaukee native. “And then just like that, I was another statistic of people who had been hospitalized because of COVID.”
Smies said she encourages anyone unsure about whether or not to receive the vaccine not to risk the alternative.
“There are so many unknowns with this virus; I don’t know why anyone would risk not being vaccinated,” said Smies. “If I had gotten mine sooner, I don’t think this would have happened.”
The same week, another Hanscom Airman had come face to face with the virus.
Capt. Danielle Sease, a Global Network Systems Branch budget analyst, was securing her household goods before a six month deployment when she started to feel what she thought was just mental fatigue.
She could still smell and taste, but after a week of her symptoms worsening, Sease began having difficulty breathing and a mild fever, and could barely stand on her own. She was hospitalized with COVID-19 and double pneumonia on March 30.
“I thought that, because I didn’t have all of the symptoms, I could just brush it off like a cold,” said Sease, who spent four days on oxygen in the hospital.
Sease was medically deferred from her deployment, and health professionals have restricted her from any physical activity. Her resting heart rate sits at just over 90 beats per minute, and she said everyday activities are incredibly taxing.
“Just walking to my mailbox is enough to take me out for the day,” she said.
Similarly to Smies, Sease took all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to heart, especially because she had family members who were considered at higher risk.
“It doesn’t matter how small your symptoms seem, you should take them seriously,” said Sease.
Both of the Hanscom company grade officers continue to battle the effects of COVID-19, as well as the perception that the virus only impacts older individuals with underlying conditions.
“Cases like these are why we so strongly encourage people to receive all doses of their vaccine,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Gough, 66th Medical Squadron public health emergency officer. “COVID doesn’t discriminate, so it’s important to do what we can to protect ourselves and loved ones.”
Gough said that individuals diagnosed with COVID need only wait 14 days before being eligible for a vaccine and all questions should be directed through their primary care physicians.