Irina Arntson and her daughter Kim, a Class of 2020 Pelican Rapids High School graduate, both tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-May. Kim never had any symptoms, but her mom Irina was among the first to go public, in the area, with her experience fighting through the illness
Irina Arntson, pictured here with a mask and face shield she wore to volunteer, prior to contracting COVID-19.

Battle against COVID-19 recounted by Pelican’s Irina Arntson—now back on her feet

A Pelican Rapids woman’s bout with COVID-19 is a personal, local testimony to the frightening peculiarities of a virus that virtually shut down the planet.

The illness also shut down a once-in-a-lifetime mother-daughter experience: Graduation commencement.

May 18 was the day Irina Arntson first felt an illness. Tested at the Pelican Rapids Sanford Health clinic, coronavirus was confirmed within two days.

Daughter Kim, only days before her graduation from Pelican Rapids High School, also tested positive. Though Kim never experienced any symptoms, she was unable to join her 65 classmates.

“The first week was absolutely brutal,” said Irina, who kept a daily log of her experience with COVID-19, which the Press prints here, with some editing.

“It seemed like such a distant threat for many people,” said Irina, a healthy 40-year-old who was barely able to even rise from her bed. “But with me getting sick, it shook a lot of people up—it hit closer to home.”

With five kids who have attended Pelican schools, Irina’s family is fairly well known among other parents, families, and school staff. With her being essentially the first victim to “go public” in the Pelican area, many were alarmed.

And, many prayed.

“I’m thankful to the people who were praying for me,” said Irina, who has a strong desire to educate the public about COVID-19; and to also testify to the power of prayer. The day before the symptoms began, Irina and daughter Kim were at the “drivein” worship service at Grove Lake Lutheran Church, where Irina has also served as a church musician. The Class of 2020 Grove church youth was honored, including Kim. But all the vehicles and individuals were at least six feet apart. “Everybody kept their distance.

Body aches, slight fever, vomiting, total exhaustion, upset stomach—these were just a few of the conditions she encountered. And they shifted almost daily. The only continuous condition was weariness and body ache.

The experience culminated in a frightening loss of breath May 24—the closest Irina ever felt to death.

“It was the scariest day of my life…My whole body went numb,” said Irina, who was transported by ambulance to the emergency room. Her doctor believed it was a panic attack—driven by the coronavirus.

The bright spot during the nearly two-week struggle was the May 21 school and community parade, which came directly by Arntson’s Pelican Rapids home.

Other than aspirin, there are really no medications, said Arntson.

Complicating the situation at home was Irina’s 80-year-old mother, who lives in the home.

An employee with the Otter Tail County human services office, Irina was already working at home during the COVID outbreak. But the virus was so debilitating, she was unable to even get out of bed for several days.

“I’m not the sort of person who stays at home with a little sniffle,” said Irina.

How did she encounter the virus?

Not certain. She may have contracted it from her daughter; or vice versa.

Irina had volunteered for a friend who operates a senior living facility in Dilworth. It was only a couple hours, and she wore both a mask and a face shield. And, nobody at the living site has tested positive.
Her daughter has been in and out of Fargo, but with limited public contact.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Irina.

One conclusion for Irina: “It’s something I don’t want to have again,” she said.

“Take all the precautions…You want to protect your neighbor,” she said, advocating masks and social distancing. “I highly advise a mask in public.”

Irina Arntson: My corona diary

Monday, May 18th – in the morning I felt something was off, feeling of a cold coming on, Slight body ache, went in to be tested. By afternoon my body was hurting, my bones felt like someone was twisting them. Dry cough. No fever. Laying outside in the sun in the evening helped body aches to be less.

Tuesday – I stayed in bed all day, fever 99.6, dry cough, off and on chest burning. Felt weak. Horrible headache overnight and all day

Wednesday – attempted to work for a bit, could not stay up for more than an hour. When I sit my hips hurt, when I walk my legs hurt, when I lay my bones twist. Chest burning sensation, have to re-adjust every half hour or so and it goes away. Light headache towards the evening. No fever. Started to sneeze. Was in bed all afternoon. Horrible stomach cramps

Thursday – woke up feeling better than yesterday, by late morning I had sneezing, dry cough and slight headache. By afternoon Body hurt horribly, stomach cramps continued. Stayed in bed. Parade definitely brighten up my day.

Friday – woke up with feeling great. For some reason mornings are the best. Lower back pain is today’s struggle. Dry cough and weak. Watched graduation from my bed, sad we couldn’t be there. Ended day with vomiting, ish!

Saturday – woke up few times last night, my heart was racing, felt very lightheaded and nauseated. Barely have cough. Itchy skin. Lost taste only for today.

Sunday, May 24 – slept great, woke up refreshed. Made coffee and toast – up for maybe 5 min and felt dizzy. Was watching TV relaxed in my room when all of a sudden couldn’t take a breath. Couldn’t feel my legs or bend my fingers. Thought this was it for me. Went to ER by ambulance, lab and lungs came back clear. Doctor thinks it was panic attack and my body needed to reset, been under a lot of stress fighting this virus.

Monday (week 2) – dry cough and weak, no other symptoms.

Tuesday (week 2) – headache, dry cough, was able to be out of bed for few hours in the morning, back in bed for the afternoon. Worked for 2 hours, my goal was 4 but my body told me otherwise.

Wednesday (week 2) – was up for two hours outside this morning, sunshine is a good medicine! Start feeling dizzy, laid down for 3 hours and was up outside in the chair for majority of afternoon. Worked for 4 hours today. Have a feeling of light head cold today, no headache and no other symptoms. Feeling more refreshed and not as weak.

Thursday (weeks 2) – felt much better from yesterday, worked for 6 hours, out of bed majority of the day.

Friday (week 2), May 29 – felt back to myself 90%