Orcutt Residents Share Their Experiences with COVID

Though restrictions have been relaxed for COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County, death counts continue to rise. In Orcutt, as of February 9th, 1,582 people tested positive and 19 have died. In December and January the virus numbers and casualties more than tripled. Hopefully, with the holidays over and the roll out of vaccines, these numbers will go down.

Randomly, people in Orcutt were asked their experiences with COVID. Most who shared asked for anonymity.

While visiting the Rice Ranch dog park, a spry 87-year-old woman patted her recently vaccinated shoulder with a smile. She relayed a story of her grandson, 36 and healthy, who spiked a 106.6 fever. A health care worker said to shove ice under his armpits and get him to a hospital assign as possible. He was given oxygen for 8 days before being released.

Another Orcutt area woman, 65, caught COVID in Houston at a work convention. It began like a cold but she lost her sense of taste and smell for 30 days and passed it to two of her friends.

Carol, 61, from Rice Ranch believes she and her husband, 74, may have caught COVID at a crowded outdoor restaurant. “It was the only place I had my mask off.” Both had massive body aches, runny noses and a cough. The prevailing symptom, though, was fatigue, which is still, 4 months later, a problem. “We’re both  what is called ‘long-haulers’,” she said. We’ll have a good day and then down the next. I have to regulate how much I do.”

Carol, who still has antibodies, wants to help others. She donated plasma, a 2 hour process, at Vitalant Blood Services on Broadway. Her blood is removed, plasma is siphoned, and then her blood is returned. The Covid Convalescent Plasma, CCP, seems to be lessening the effects and length of COVID for hospitalized patients not on ventilators. It should be given sooner than later. Scientific studies are in process but it does seem to be helping, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carol and most others who were interviewed want to receive the vaccination. Several people are waiting to get the vaccine until they see how people respond over time, and some say they will never get one.

On Next door Orcutt Danelle, 60, reported that she caught COVID on Christmas Eve. Her daughter’s employers called to say they had tested positive and, soon, all nine people at the family gathering tested positive. “It must have been the super contagious one!” Danelle says she had been careful since the beginning, wearing masks and social distancing. She is struck by how everyone had different symptoms. “I would have never thought we had the same thing.” One had a cough; two had body aches; four were asymptomatic; two lost a sense of smell.

Like Carol, Danelle is pleased to be donating plasma at Vitalant. “I am glad to be done with it and now I can save lives.” All her family completely recovered from mild symptoms. A doctor at the Orcutt Walk-in Clinic said that is the case for 80 percent of those who contract it.

It wasn’t so easy for Mike, 52, who also got COVID from a visiting relative at Christmas. “I don’t wish this on anybody, and I’m not one who ever gets sick.” It was mild for six days and then he lost his sense of smell. On the 8th day, gasping for air, Mike went to the hospital. He was able to take oxygen home, which helped him breathe for the next week. Now, six weeks later, he says he is demoralized. “One day you are good and then bam, the next day it beats you even harder.”

A sad story, familiar to many, comes from an Orcutt woman who was not allowed to visit her Dad in the hospital as he died alone from COVID.

Another oft repeated complaint was not being able to see relatives during the shut downs. One Orcutt resident relayed that her mother-in-law, 90, sometimes sneaks out of her locked down Santa Maria living area by following behind a truck when they open the automatic gate. She then gets groceries or visits relatives and sneaks back in a few hours later. We hope she keeps her mask on.

Katy Jacobson reporting