Sydney woman Amie Morris caught COVID-19 three weeks ago on a date. She ended up in hospital with breathing difficulties and now wants others to take the threat of the virus seriously.
Three weeks ago, Australia was a very different place.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had just caught coronavirus and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s beloved Cronulla Sharks were playing their first game of the season in front of a large crowd.
It was around this time that Sydney woman Amie Morris went on a date with a man she had seen a few times, but did not know too well.
“It has got to be the worst date story ever,” the 38-year-old, who works in radio in Bondi, told SBS News.
“He had a cough, like a dry cough … I said ‘I hope you don't have coronavirus', as a joke. Literally, two days later I woke up and it started with a sore throat.”
“Within 24 hours it went from the sore throat to a fever and really feeling quite unwell.”
Amie went to see a doctor who didn’t think she had COVID-19, so they tested her for everything else, but the results came back negative.
She was sent to get a coronavirus test and to her surprise, it came back positive.
“I called him [her date] up and was like ‘umm so I have something to tell you, I have had a swab done and it was positive’ and he was like ‘umm right, ok’ and I think he was shocked,” she said.
He was diagnosed with coronavirus too.
For Amie, the symptoms started out ok, like a mild version of influenza, she said, which she had had before.
“I felt really fluey. Aches and pains, fever, really sore throat, headache and absolutely exhausted, I was so tired,” she said.
“I could sleep 12 hours, get up and have breakfast and then think, ‘I have got to go back to bed’.”
As her symptoms started to clear Amie thought she was on the mend, but her case took a turn for the worse in week three.
“I woke up one morning really struggling to breathe … I felt like I couldn't breathe enough, that was the first time I was really scared,” she said.
“I called [my local public health unit] and they told me to go into emergency. I had a chest X-ray and some bloods taken. The X-ray show inflammation but no damage on my lungs, which was obviously the main concern. My bloods showed I was still fighting an infection.
“I was one of those people that thought: ‘I don't know if this is as bad as they are making out’. I thought I would be fine, I guess. I generally consider myself to be quite healthy. I eat well, I exercise and I am busy all the time.
“But then having that experience with that breathing difficulty, it was a big wake up call. I thought 'wow if I am quite healthy and that is what it did to me what is it going to do to anybody who has any other health issues at all?’”
Amie’s symptoms passed this week and she was given the all-clear by the doctor.
Finally, after three weeks in isolation, she has been reunited with her two children, who are five and eight.
“I surprised them. I didn't tell them what time I would come pick them up. I just turned up at the door. I could hear them screaming 'ahh mummy' through the door,” she said.
“I think both have been stuck to my hip since they got here.”
Can you catch the virus again?
The medical fraternity is still learning about COVID-19 and whether people can become immune to it.
Sanjaya Senanayake is a specialist in infectious diseases and associate professor of medicine at The Australian National University.
“What we do know about other coronaviruses is we probably get infections every two or three years, so it may be that we get that sort of protection from COVID-19, but it is too early to say,” he said.
“We do know from a study in Melbourne that looked at one patient with a mild case of COVID -19, is that they did develop a robust immune response with many parts of their immune system activated, including antibodies.
“Antibodies are proteins that our body makes in response to an infection and tends to give us some sort of long-term immunity. Whether that long-term immunity is one year, two years, 10 years or lifelong is yet to be seen.”
Dating goes digital
As for dating during the pandemic, the expert advice is to keep it digital.
Dating apps have seen a rise in conversations as people adhere to the stay-at-home rules, in Australia and around the world.
Tinder CEO Elie Seidman said: “As an area becomes more affected, whether it’s in Seoul, Milan or New York City, we see new conversations flourishing and lasting longer.”
Lucille McCart is Australia country lead for dating app Bumble. She said as well as a rise in messages, its users are also turning to video chat.
“Globally, we are seeing a 23 per cent increase in the number messages sent and a 31 per cent increase in the use of our video chat feature,” she said.
“So, we are definitely seeing the desire for people to connect with each other in this time is still just as strong and those conversations are more in-depth and going for longer.
The average time for a video call on Bumble has been bolstered to 14 minutes.
Lucy says she kept in touch with her date throughout their experiences with coronavirus.
“We went on this two-week journey of both suffering at home on our own, asking each other what our symptoms were and how we were recovering,” she said.
He was tested again and given the all-clear but Lucy said there won’t be another romantic date for now.
“I think we have a come out pretty good friends, to be honest.”
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus