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From caregiver to Covid patient

West Hempstead nurse, brother-in-law recall nightmarish bouts with coronavirus

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For the past nine months, West Hempstead resident Narda Martin-Haye says, she and her family have been living a nightmare. A registered nurse in Nassau County for 16 years, Martin-Haye, 38, said she was one of the first people in her family to contract Covid-19 in March.

“I went from being heroic and dedicating my services to being a patient,” she recalled. “It was a virus that came to New York so quickly. We, as nurses and physicians, didn’t know what we were dealing with. A lot of front-line workers ended up getting ill because we didn’t know what it was or how to even protect ourselves.”

Martin-Haye has since recovered from the virus, but she said that her life has completely changed. She still experiences shortness of breath, and has not returned to work since March, so she is collecting workers’ compensation. She also had to take care of her husband and son — both named Gregory, and both of whom contracted the virus. While they fully recovered, Narda said she was still struggling with other lingering symptoms. During a visit to her primary care physician on Nov. 11, she was diagnosed with kidney damage.

“It’s like my body won’t get rid of the illness,” Martin-Haye said. “It feels as if it’s flaring up with symptoms each week.”

She was one of several members of her family who came down with the virus. Her brother-in-law, Wayne Edwards — an education consultant who lives in Woodmere and works with Nassau County schools — fell ill in March. Edwards, 52, started out with a fever, and his condition quickly worsened.

“At the time I didn’t think anything of it, but it just persisted,” Edwards recalled. “It just wouldn’t go away. Fortunately I was working from home by then.”

Edwards, who has three children, suffered from shortness of breath, chest pains and drowsiness. He said he couldn’t sleep on his back because of the pain, and at one point he was afraid he would die if he dozed off. “The pain in my chest felt as if I was being stabbed and someone was turning the knife,” he recalled. “It lasted about six seconds, but it felt like an hour. It came once or twice within an hour, and it felt like I was gasping for air.”

Edwards later found out he had pneumonia in both lungs. He went to Mount Sinai South Nassau, in Oceanside, in late March in the hope of getting treated, but physicians told him he wasn’t sick enough for treatment. In April, another of his sisters-in-law, Michelle Manning, encouraged him to see her doctor in Brooklyn, and once the doctor saw the severity of Edwards’s condition, she wrote a note to physicians at MSSN, imploring them to treat him immediately.

“Once they read that letter, they just began scurrying,” Edwards recounted. “Within 20 minutes I was in a bed in the emergency room. I’m convinced that if I waited another day, I would’ve been on a ventilator or dead.”

His condition vastly improved during his weekend-long stay at MSSN. Now working with the Academy Charter School in Hempstead, Edwards returned to work virtually in July, and in-person in September. An avid outdoorsman, Ed-wards said he can now ride his bike for miles, but oddly enough, he gets winded from simple tasks, such as walking up stairs.

“It’s a weird symptom,” he said, “and I can’t really explain why I feel out of breath from something like that.”

He said he kept the letter from Manning’s doctor as a memento. While he doesn’t understand the medical jargon, he keeps it to remind himself of what became the turning point in his bout with the virus. “I never took life for granted before Covid-19,” Edwards said, “but this experience definitely made the phrase ‘life is short’ much more real.”

His sister-in-law Martin-Haye, meanwhile, said she missed working bedside with her patients, but was uncertain about the future of her career in health care. She was contemplating starting a GoFundMe to support her children, Gregory and Maya. She said she hoped people would be more cautious about the coronavirus, and follow the safety protocols of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s totally preventable,” Martin-Haye said of the disease. “For everyone that gets it, it’s not 100 percent recovery. This is a nightmare that your entire family can experience, so don’t be a part of that.”