Greenwood hair stylist Pam Barrett was melancholy when fellow cosmetologists got to return to work May 18, following state-mandated closures of salons April 1, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Barrett, 63, was still at her apartment, in self-isolation, after receiving word April 21 that she tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’ve been isolated at home the whole time,” Barrett said, her words often choked with tearful emotion. “My firstborn daughter took pictures my first few days, when I was so sick. Dear God, what this virus is really doing to people. I think almighty God protected my lungs.”
That daughter, who took pictures, and began documenting her mom’s illness, Grace Robbins, lives and works in Virginia now. She has been getting groceries delivered to Barrett via Instacart for weeks and has been down to visit her, while maintaining social distance. And, close friends of Barrett’s have delivered meals and even pillows to help her prop up in bed.
Robbins and Barrett have shared some on social media about coping with COVID-19.
May 5, Robbins posted on her Facebook page:
”We’ve been FaceTiming for days. I have watcher her struggle to breathe. I have watched her hurt. And I have watched her cry. I think there are few things more powerless than watching your mom cry and you can’t fix it. I’ve seen my mom sick before, plenty of times, and have not at all been worried. But watching her fight a virus that is currently the subject of a pandemic that’s killed thousands, well, that’s a bit different.”
Barrett said her symptoms included a “splitting headache,” a “horrible sore throat,” and she said she smelled “a stench that smelled like death.” She describes the pain she felt in her throat, nasal passages and chest as “a slow burn.”
She also said she had a fever nearing 103 degrees and sores on her lips and down her throat. A day or so before her fever spiked, Barrett said she walked for five miles.
Barrett said she was feeling extremely ill and went to Abbeville Area Medical Center on April 18 and then Self Regional Medical Center on April 20, before receiving word April 21 from Abbeville that she tested positive for COVID-19.
“When I went to Abbeville, I was put in a room by myself,” Barrett said. “I lay there for hours and my body just jerked and snatched. I can’t even explain it.” After several hours, Barrett said she was discharged and a friend gave her a ride home.
“I have no idea where I got COVID-19 from,” Barrett said. “I don’t have a clue. All I know is that it’s the sickest I have ever been and I thank God I’ve survived it. I knew if I ended up in the hospital if it turned worse, I wouldn’t see my children and my children wouldn’t see me.”
Barrett said her health history includes bouts of acute pneumonia and cervical cancer 21 years ago.
Barrett has been a licensed hair stylist since age 23. For the past several years, she has rented a booth at the Cutting Corner in Greenwood.
“I have been out of work for months now,” Barrett said. “My concern is that there is not a coordinated effort by churches or somebody, doing something, for other people sick with COVID-19 in this town.
“For a couple months, earlier this year, doctors said I was just having allergies,” Barrett said. “They would give me a steroid shot and send me on, but I had a sore throat for like six weeks...Don’t think for one minute this cannot find you. I know how close I came to not being able to be with my three children and my grandbaby.”
When she is healthy again, Barrett said she is considering donating plasma that could contain coronavirus antibodies to help others fight the virus.